The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

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For hundreds of thousands of birders for whom The Sibley Guide to Birds -- unanimously praised when it was published, and a nationwide bestseller -- is already basic equipment, this book will be required reading. Authoritative and comprehensive, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior provides the necessary information about the biology, life cycles, and behavior (courtship, nest-building, migration, feeding, and other activities) of the 80 bird families of North America.


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For hundreds of thousands of birders for whom The Sibley Guide to Birds -- unanimously praised when it was published, and a nationwide bestseller -- is already basic equipment, this book will be required reading. Authoritative and comprehensive, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior provides the necessary information about the biology, life cycles, and behavior (courtship, nest-building, migration, feeding, and other activities) of the 80 bird families of North America.

For this volume, Sibley has provided more than 796 full-color paintings to illustrate the essays and family chapters written by 48 ornithologists and expert birders. Together, the pictures, text, and Sibley's lucid design and all-encompassing attention to detail make The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior as spectacular and as useful as its brilliant predecessor.

For birders and non-birders alike, in the classroom and at home, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior will be the essential source for information on avian life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This must-have companion to the bestselling The Sibley Guide to Birds provides birders -- both beginner and experienced -- with a detailed yet accessible guide to the natural history of the birds of North America. Almost 800 paintings by David Sibley illustrate the expert text contributed by ornithologists and top birders, making this book the definitive source of information about birds for birders. Part I gives an overview of bird biology, including their evolution, behavior, and habitats. Part II focuses in on each of 80 bird families with a special emphasis on conservation.
Publishers Weekly
Not to be confused with standard field guides to birds, this far-reaching companion to last year's The Sibley Guide to Birds complements the best of those avian catalogues that birders take along on their quests for more species to add to their "life lists." Here, the editors have compiled essays from leading ornithologists on bird anatomy, ethology and behavior to round out bird-watchers' knowledge. This National Audubon Society publication details the 80 families of birds found in North America, with hundreds of Sibley's acclaimed full-color paintings, maps, charts and illustrations. Topics range from the familiar migration, feeding, mating, nesting to the esoteric, including feather structure, eye configuration, DNA classification, evolution, hybridization and much more. Readers will learn about bird respiration, metabolism, excretion, vocalizations, senses and intelligence, among other subjects. Although the information is as detailed as a textbook, the writing is jargon-free, light and accessible. Well conceived in structure and conducive to easy reference, the volume ends with a detailed glossary, professional biographies of its dozens of scholarly contributors and a convenient species checklist, based upon the American Ornithologists' Union guidelines. Whether one is a serious expeditionary birder or a casual backyard observer of avian life, this book is a must-have reference. 796 full-color paintings. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Birdwatchers flocked to Sibley's extraordinary field guide and surprise best seller, The Sibley Guide to Birds. Sibley and associates now present this prodigious companion volume, providing information about birds' lives and behavior the logical next step after identification. Part 1 ("The World of Birds") discusses basic avian biology, including form, distribution, population, and conservation, in about 100 pages. Part 2 ("Bird Families of North America"), to which over 40 ornithologists contributed, uses a standard format to describe taxonomy, foraging, breeding, range, nests, eggs, longevity, conservation, and more. Enough information is presented to satisfy readers' curiosity but not overwhelm them with scientific detail. The 796 Sibley color illustrations throughout the text are outstanding (seen only in black and white in the review galley). Posture, aspect, feet, feathers, flight, nests, habitat, courtship, and much more are captured in small but elegant paintings. An understandable, accessible, and informative next step to field identification, this is a required addition for every collection. (Index not seen.) [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/00.] Nancy Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Regardless of one's reasons for watching birds, learning about their lives can greatly enhance the pleasure of watching their behavior—as well as markedly improve one's ability to identify them in the field. The new "Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior" will help with both. Like Sibley's popular field guide, it will undoubtedly become a principal source to answer questions on avian taxonomy, habitat, behavior, and distribution. Sibley's numerous colored illustrations are alone, sufficient reason to purchase this guide, but in addition, it summarizes an impressive amount of useful information. The text is beautifully written and the chapters are consistently well organized. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the life and behavior of birds.”
—Dr. Wm. James Davis, editor of the Interpretive Birding Bulletin.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679451235
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/2/2001
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.74 (h) x 1.74 (d)

Meet the Author

David Allen Sibley began seriously watching and drawing birds in 1969, at age seven. Author and illustrator of the nationally acclaimed National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds, he lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Chris Elphick, editor and contributing author, holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Conservation Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. He is currently a research scientist at the University of Connecticut, where he focuses on the conservation of waterbirds, especially shorebirds. He lives in Storrs, Connecticut.
John B. Dunning, Jr., editor and contributing author, earned a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Arizona. He is an Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Purdue University and lives in Lafayette, Indiana.

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Interviews & Essays

Talking Birds with David Sibley

Barnes & This book was written specifically for birders who want to know more about the birds they have learned to identify. Are there usually some particular questions that come up when people are first starting out birding -- for instance, the aerodynamics of bird flight?

David Sibley: An interest in birds usually starts with an interest in what they are doing. People first want to know something about the birds' habits, and the identification is simply the first step to understanding the birds' place in the environment. A lot of the clues that people use to identify birds come from the habits of the birds -- what habitat are they in, what are they eating, how are they catching it, what time of year are they around? People see a species appear suddenly in their neighborhood, watch a flock of sandpipers wheeling in perfect unison over a mudflat, watch a tiny hummingbird catching gnats in midair, and then start asking questions. How? Why? What next?

B& There is a strong conservation component in this book. Do you recall when you first became aware of the threatened status of so many bird species?

DS: I've been aware of it since I was six or seven years old. My father was studying California condors, which were seriously endangered even then, in the late '60s. So I was very much aware of the problems faced by birds in the modern world. Traveling around as much as I did gave me a vision of the whole country, and the sense that even North America is really just a small patch of land that is under tremendous pressure. Any birder who travels around will notice that they drive through miles and miles of developed land to get to a few hundred acres of relatively undisturbed natural habitat, which is the home of some of the specialized native birds.

B& Along with joining conservation groups, is there anything else you would encourage people to do to help conservation efforts?

DS: Purchasing decisions can make a difference -- the "reduce, reuse, recycle" theme -- and that's certainly important; buying shade-grown coffee fits into this category. The best advice is to be informed: Join your local Audubon chapter, support the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the American Bird Conservancy, and other conservation organizations, check out their web sites, learn about the many issues. The biggest and probably most personally satisfying difference people can make is right in their own yard. Plant shrubs and flowers (not grass) that are beneficial to wildlife, avoid pesticides and other chemicals, put up bird feeders and houses, control cats. The National Wildlife Federation has a big campaign going to help people with this backyard habitat. These things can have a significant positive impact and turning a few lawns into wildlife habitat can "tip the balance" in a neighborhood and significantly increase the number of birds there.

B& Is there anything else you would like to add?

DS: I really believe that to be interested in saving something people have to have a personal connection to it; they have to think of birds (and other wildlife) as an integral part of their lives. Attracting birds into people's yards and exposing kids to birds and nature is very important. Birdwatching may seem like a frivolous hobby to some, and I know that I take it more seriously than most people, but by giving everyone the chance to make this connection with nature, in their own yards and in every town, I believe birdwatching may be critical to the psychological well-being of millions and to the health of the planet.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2001

    What and Why of North American Bird Family Behaviors

    If you are like me, you love The Sibley Guide to Birds and treasure it as a guide to identifying birds. If you are also like me, you often observe bird behavior that fascinates or surprises you. Little birds survive outdoors in very cold winter weather. Some ocean flyers are able to glide for vast distances without moving their wings. Why do birds lay external eggs rather than carry internal ones like mammals? How devoted are birds in pairs to one another? What habitats are most likely to shelter each bird type? What is the migration range and timing of that bird you¿re watching? What must we do to conserve a particular species? The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior is designed to be a companion to The Sibley Guide to Birds, and extend your understanding of bird behaviors and the reasons behind them beyond the mere identification of species. With the two books, you have the birthday cake and the icing, too! I was especially pleased to see that the writing was simple, straight-forward, and interesting. An 11-page glossary helps with the relatively few technical terms, many of which are carefully illustrated somewhere in the book. From pages 15 through 120, the book focuses on general essays about all North American birds on subjects like feathers, flight characteristics, feet, bills, digestion, bones, organs, metabolism, respiration, cooling, heating, intelligence, origins as a reptile, and evolution into their current forms. From pages 121 to near the end, the subject matter switches to one of 80 North American (U.S. and Canada) based families. The average length of a section is about six pages. So it¿s a reference guide rather than a definitive resource. If you love cardinals, for example, you will probably prefer a more specialized book in that direction. If you would like to learn about the basic behaviors of all the birds you normally see in North America, then this is the book for you. For each family, you get most or all of the following, depending on the characteristics of the family: the scientific name, taxonomy, variations, molting, plumage, territoriality, food and foraging, breeding (including eggs, nests, and displays), movements, conservation issues, and information about accidental species. Each section is a signed essay, so you can see who the experts are who did that section. References are usually not included in the book, but are available on the book¿s Web site. You probably don¿t want a list of all 80 families covered, so I¿ll just name a representative few (Loons, Albatrosses, Storm-Petrels, Pelicans, New World Vultures, Falcons & Caracaras, Limpkin, Stilts and Avocets, Gulls and Terns, Cuckoos, Swifts, Kingfishers, Larks, Kinglets, Mockingbirds and Thrashers, Bananaquit; New World Sparrows; and Orioles). The high point of the book, however, are the 795 water colors painted by the eminently talented David Allen Sibley. Most of these paintings highlight key bird behaviors or characteristics. Although most of the illustrations are quite small, you can easily discern the point that is being made from the superb use of angle, color, and composition. Without these wonderful water colors, this book would be less than half as interesting and helpful. To look only at the illustrations would bring joy to anyone. The only thing that¿s missing is a CD of bird song to accompany the pages. I seriously doubt if many people are going to carry this guide off on bird watching trips. My suggestion is that you read up on what you plan to see before you go, or just curl up with this book and some hot apple cider on cold winter nights to anticipate the bird watching that you will begin doing again in the spring. You should also use some of that time to organize and participate in local efforts to help conserve species which are being threatened. To know more about birds is to appreciate them and God¿s creation even more! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enter

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2005

    Invaluable aid to understanding birds

    David Sibley's work is superlative. This book is the best single reference I've ever found that illustrates & explains the very complex behavior (and anatomy) of the birds we find both in the field and in our backyards. If you enjoy watching birds in either venue type, you will find this book indispensable, and as valuable as the standard field guide. Buy it now, while it is still in print.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2004

    A Companion to the Field Guide

    This is a very interesting companion to the Sibley Bird Guide. I purchased it before I bought the guide. There are many interesting essays about the various families of birds and Sibley's art adds a lot to the text. Boxes give added information on each family.If you want to know the whys of bird behavior, this is a good place to start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

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