Birder's Companion

Overview

Answers to 450 common (and uncommon) questions about birds.

Did you know that an extraordinary six million mallard ducks have been banded? And that an even more extraordinary one million of those have been recovered? Or that the female of a species, not the male, usually chooses a mate? Or that birds are hardly "bird-brained" but actually quite smart?

This friendly, fact-filled browser is perfect for birders, bird enthusiasts, students and the ...

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Overview

Answers to 450 common (and uncommon) questions about birds.

Did you know that an extraordinary six million mallard ducks have been banded? And that an even more extraordinary one million of those have been recovered? Or that the female of a species, not the male, usually chooses a mate? Or that birds are hardly "bird-brained" but actually quite smart?

This friendly, fact-filled browser is perfect for birders, bird enthusiasts, students and the curious. Accurate, comprehensive and fun to read, the author's answers reveal a compelling world of feathers, beaks, flight, mating, nesting, migration, sleep, song and much, much more.

Bird expert Stephen Moss responds to 450 queries submitted by birders, beginners and experts alike. For example:

  • Do birds have knees?
  • How many feathers does a bird have?
  • Why do many birds have dark wingtips?
  • Why are our songbirds declining?
  • Do birds ever fly backwards?
  • Does weather affect migrating birds?
  • Why don't ducks' feet freeze in winter?
  • Are birds dinosaurs, or were dinosaurs birds?
  • Why don't flying birds collide?
  • Which senses help a bird find food?
  • Do birds sing the same song all the time?
  • Why do birds sing mainly at dawn?
  • Are all eggs the same shape?

The author's responses are informative, surprising and often entertaining, and the illustrations are appropriately lighthearted. This lively new book is a birder delight.

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Editorial Reviews

Science News
Moss, author of several books on birds, wants to put push bird-watchers to the next level with this information-packed guide.
Almonte Gazette - Lynda C. Bennett
A wonderful little book.
Good Times - Liz Grogan
Moss answers 450 bird-related questions in his informative and entertianing book, which also includes fun-filled facts and beautiful illustrations by Clive Dobson.
Muskoka Today - Lois Cooper
The pièce de résistance for birding... A book everyone can benefit from reading; a book that will help the reader enjoy the world around them more.
Southern California Life After 50
You don't have to be a birder to be fascinated by the information in Birder's Companion.
Grand Magazine (Kitchener ON) - Carolyn Gruske
Packed with bird facts on everything from feeding to flight patterns to the songs they sing. Its Q & A format —450 in total—is easy to manoeuvre.
Science Books and Films
The title of this book is a bit misleading, because anyone with the slightest interest in birds would enjoy it.... Best suited for someone just beginning to learn about birds, the book also presents facts that even seasoned birders will appreciate. A broad range of topics is covered, from the evolutionary history of birds to their physiology, behavior, and habitats. This book would be useful in sparking an interest in birds or as a quick source of new facts for someone with knowledge about birds.
American Reference Books Annual 2008 - Charles Leck
There are many fascinating facts provided in this handy spectrum of avian information. It is recommended for public reference and enjoyment.
Canadian Field Naturalist, vol. 120, no. 3, Jul-Se - Clive E. Goodwin
The book is very well thought-out, up-to-date, and quite accurate... This book would appeal to novice birders or anyone with a mild interest in birds... It's an easy read, best taken in small doses, and you'll probably find some things you didn't know.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554072125
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/15/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Moss is the author of several books on birds, including The Birdfriendly Garden and A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching. He lives in London, where he produces a wildlife series for BBC radio.

Clive Dobson is a versatile artist and illustrator with many books to his credit, including Tex and Watersheds. He lives near Peterborough, Ontario.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

  1. What is a bird?
    • Questions and answers about physiology
  2. Where do birds come from?
    • Questions and answers about evolution and classification
  3. How many birds are there?
    • Questions and answers about population
  4. Where do birds live?
    • Questions and answers about distribution
  5. How do birds move?
    • Questions and answers about locomotion
  6. How do birds eat?
    • Questions and answers about feeding
  7. Why do birds sing?
    • Questions and answers about communication
  8. How do birds reproduce?
    • Questions and answers about breeding
  9. Where do birds go?
    • Questions and answers about migration
  10. How do we relate to birds?
    • Questions and answers about birds and people

Bibliography
Index

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Preface

Introduction

I have spent much of my life fielding questions about birds from people I encounter in various places. Not surprisingly then, I yearned for an easy reference source that provided all the answers in a single place, something like a walking encyclopedia on birds, a resource that is informative and accurate but also accessible and straightforward. My hope for this book is that it offers the reader a similarly friendly approach to learning about birds. I also want it to be relevant to readers having a wide range of interest in birds, from the keen birder who heads out every weekend, rain or shine, to the self-styled naturalist who is simply curious about the world.

Questions are a natural way of focusing our interest. The simple question-and-answer format used here takes you straight to the answer without swamping you in information you may not want or need. Instead of producing a dense textbook on the almost infinitely complex lives of birds, I have presented the information in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks that you can consume at leisure.

I began the writing process by collecting and compiling raw questions from a broad spectrum of people, including friends and family, beginners and experts. Some questions were fascinating, some ludicrous and some unanswerable, but all played a part in revealing the kind of things people want to know about birds. If you were part of this process, I hope you find your answer here, and with luck, a lot more besides.

From the myriad of questions about birds, I chose more than 500, and arranged them in ten chapters, each tackling a major theme, such as feeding, breeding or migration. This format makes it easy for the reader to choose how to read the book You can start at the beginning and read straight through, or you can follow your curiosity and browse and hop among the various sections. The comprehensive index helps you locate any question you want answered plus some you never thought of asking. From there I hope you will be drawn further into the book, where you will find equally interesting answers to related questions or gain a deeper insight into a particular subject.

You will find the text is liberally sprinkled with headlined boxes containing nuggets of information. These are what I call record breakers and they list superlatives such as the biggest, smallest, highest, fastest and so on. Being records, they are subject to certain qualifications: some, such as those concerned with longevity, may have already been surpassed by the time the book hits the shelves; others have their absolute accuracy open to question. And all of course are subject in the first place to the advent and accuracy of record keeping and simply reflect what has been measured or studied to date, which means they are not the final word on the subject. Facts and statistics, especially those related to the latest scientific discoveries, often show a distinct bias toward European or North American species, only because that is where most research takes place. All facts published here were checked against at least two further sources, and usually more. I used a number of reference books for this process and the most important of these are listed in the bibliography. Where there is any measure of doubt, I couched the information in suitably non-committal terms, such as "probably," "it is claimed," etc. If you discover a newer or more accurate record, please let me know (via the publishers) and I'll be happy to include it in future editions.

So who exactly is this book for? My longtime friend and birding companion Daniel Osorio gave me a typically backhanded compliment when he said it would appeal to intelligent, inquiring eleven-year-old boys — the same age he and I were when we first met. While that may be true, I hope that it will appeal also to eleven-year-old girls, since there are far too few women birders. That it might spark an interest would help to redress the balance. Ultimately, however, I would like to think that this book has something to offer readers of all ages, and that it is equally suitable for experienced birders, complete novices and anyone in between. Wherever you may be in that continuum, I hope you enjoy reading it. I hope also that you are motivated to go outside and look anew at birds — which to my mind are the most elegant, fascinating and delightful of all God's creatures.

Stephen Moss
December 2006

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Introduction

Introduction

I have spent much of my life fielding questions about birds from people I encounter in various places. Not surprisingly then, I yearned for an easy reference source that provided all the answers in a single place, something like a walking encyclopedia on birds, a resource that is informative and accurate but also accessible and straightforward. My hope for this book is that it offers the reader a similarly friendly approach to learning about birds. I also want it to be relevant to readers having a wide range of interest in birds, from the keen birder who heads out every weekend, rain or shine, to the self-styled naturalist who is simply curious about the world.

Questions are a natural way of focusing our interest. The simple question-and-answer format used here takes you straight to the answer without swamping you in information you may not want or need. Instead of producing a dense textbook on the almost infinitely complex lives of birds, I have presented the information in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks that you can consume at leisure.

I began the writing process by collecting and compiling raw questions from a broad spectrum of people, including friends and family, beginners and experts. Some questions were fascinating, some ludicrous and some unanswerable, but all played a part in revealing the kind of things people want to know about birds. If you were part of this process, I hope you find your answer here, and with luck, a lot more besides.

From the myriad of questions about birds, I chose more than 500, and arranged them in ten chapters, each tackling a major theme, such as feeding, breeding or migration. This format makesit easy for the reader to choose how to read the book You can start at the beginning and read straight through, or you can follow your curiosity and browse and hop among the various sections. The comprehensive index helps you locate any question you want answered plus some you never thought of asking. From there I hope you will be drawn further into the book, where you will find equally interesting answers to related questions or gain a deeper insight into a particular subject.

You will find the text is liberally sprinkled with headlined boxes containing nuggets of information. These are what I call record breakers and they list superlatives such as the biggest, smallest, highest, fastest and so on. Being records, they are subject to certain qualifications: some, such as those concerned with longevity, may have already been surpassed by the time the book hits the shelves; others have their absolute accuracy open to question. And all of course are subject in the first place to the advent and accuracy of record keeping and simply reflect what has been measured or studied to date, which means they are not the final word on the subject. Facts and statistics, especially those related to the latest scientific discoveries, often show a distinct bias toward European or North American species, only because that is where most research takes place. All facts published here were checked against at least two further sources, and usually more. I used a number of reference books for this process and the most important of these are listed in the bibliography. Where there is any measure of doubt, I couched the information in suitably non-committal terms, such as "probably," "it is claimed," etc. If you discover a newer or more accurate record, please let me know (via the publishers) and I'll be happy to include it in future editions.

So who exactly is this book for? My longtime friend and birding companion Daniel Osorio gave me a typically backhanded compliment when he said it would appeal to intelligent, inquiring eleven-year-old boys -- the same age he and I were when we first met. While that may be true, I hope that it will appeal also to eleven-year-old girls, since there are far too few women birders. That it might spark an interest would help to redress the balance. Ultimately, however, I would like to think that this book has something to offer readers of all ages, and that it is equally suitable for experienced birders, complete novices and anyone in between. Wherever you may be in that continuum, I hope you enjoy reading it. I hope also that you are motivated to go outside and look anew at birds -- which to my mind are the most elegant, fascinating and delightful of all God's creatures.

Stephen Moss
December 2006

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