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Rare Birds of North America – book review

Rare Birds of North America, written by renowned birders Steve N. G. Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell, is a technical tour de force. Its technical expertise is exact and passionate. Reading Rare Birds of North America will simply make you a better birder and better naturalist.

Birding books generally fall into two categories—books that are useful for travel and the occasional naturalist and books that provide technical expertise. Rare Birds of North America bridges the gap between both styles by explaining how to seek out birds that are vagrant in North America—as infrequent travelers from South America, Europe, and Asia—in a manner that is enjoyable to read. Furthermore, reading Rare Birds of North America will excite you and leave you with a stronger ornithological scientific foundation. With 275 illustrated plates designed by Ian Lewington, Rare Birds of North America is like reading an introductory art history textbook filled with stunning and gorgeous images that engages your imagination—and in this case, the art is the birds themselves.

The authors have previously written and illustrated guidebooks on technical birding subjects such as petrels, molting, auks, and Palearctic birding, and have led world class birding trips globally.

Rare Birds of North America, from my point of view, is well-organized, and reminds me of the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America I enjoyed as a teenager. The book’s colorful plates are both enjoyable to look at while the technical descriptions support expanding my scientific knowledge.

Beyond the obvious, it is the authors’ passion that reverberates throughout Rare Birds of North America. While the book focuses on vagrant (and rare) avian visitors to North America, what is notable is that this book provides a vehicle for us to consider the merits of conservation—if for no other reasons than we believe the authors, who are ornithological experts, expect us to support conservation 100% after they have shared their passionate interpretation of these beautiful avian vagrants to North America. So to the authors, I say thank you, and I hope their message is heard, incorporated, and acted on.

How to order:

Paperback:Rare Birds of North America

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Authors: Steve N. G. Howell, Ian Lewington & Will Russell

ISBN: 9780691117966

Gabriel Thoumi is a frequent contributor to He is an Affiliated Researcher at the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech.

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