Smithsonian Handbooks: Birds of North America: East

Overview

Published in association with America's preeminent authority, the Smithsonian Institution, this comprehensive handbook to the birds of North America: Eastern Region includes 706 species -- all birds known to breed east of the 100th meridian on the United States and Canada, as well as regular visitors and vagrants to this region. The Smithsonian Handbook is the first identification guide that includes details of the bird's life history in a concise and user-friendly format. Each full-page profile combines a ...
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Overview

Published in association with America's preeminent authority, the Smithsonian Institution, this comprehensive handbook to the birds of North America: Eastern Region includes 706 species -- all birds known to breed east of the 100th meridian on the United States and Canada, as well as regular visitors and vagrants to this region. The Smithsonian Handbook is the first identification guide that includes details of the bird's life history in a concise and user-friendly format. Each full-page profile combines a precise description, annotated photographs, and artworks to highlight the key field marks of the species in each plumage. Similar species are shown and distinguishing characteristics are noted. Further information on the bird's habits describes the typical song and other vocalizations, behavior, breeding, nesting, population, and conservation concerns. Typical flight patterns and nest locations and shapes are described with clear icons, and amplified in the text. Each bird's range during summer, winter, and on migration is clearly shown on a map.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
By partnering with the Smithsonian Institution and by using the popular photographically-rich design of the DK Handbook series, the books [Smithsonian Handbooks of Birds of North America (Eastern Region and Western Region)] promise to catch the attention of veteran and novice birders. With 750-plus pages per handbook, each species receives it's own full-page profile, including a concise overview and color photos. The books also cover songs, behavior, breeding, population and conservation issues. (Birder's World, June 2001)
Birders World
DK's two regional books - Smithsonian Handbooks of Birds of North America (Eastern Region and Western Region) - were written by Fred J. Alsop III, an orinthologist and professor of biological sciences at Eastern Tennessee State University. By partnering with the Smithsonian Institution and by using the popular photographically-rich design of the DK Handbook series, the books promise to catch the attention of veteran and novice birders. With 750-plus pages per handbook, each species receives it's own full-page profile, including a concise overview and color photos. The books also cover songs, behavior, breeding, population and conservation issues.
Booknews
Although Fred J. Alsop, III, PhD is designated author on both cover and title pages, there is no mention of his name on the title verso. Hence readers, especially bibliographers, are left wondering just what part or parts are of his creation. Is he author of text or illustrator or both? As text author, compared to authors of the recent plethora of new or revised bird guide books, Dr. Alsop deserves a B or B-minus grade. As illustrator, the ranking goes down several notches, due primarily to fuzzy lines and inaccurate coloring of many subjects. The question arises as to the causes. Are these retouched photographs or are they free-hand portraits? Obviously intended as a handbook, this book can seldom be used as a field guide due to its three-pound weight and 5.75x8.75<"> dimensions. Certainly the 751 pages make this the winner in measurement, especially considering that it covers only the "eastern region." One can hope for improvement of content and size of "western region." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789471567
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Smithsonian Handbooks Series
  • Pages: 752
  • Sales rank: 122,768
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Joseph Alsop, III Ph.D. is an ornithologist and a professor of biological sciences at East Tennessee State University. He received his doctorate in zoology from the University of Tennessee, and specialized in the ecology, distribution, life history, and taxonomy of birds. In addition to studying the effects of pesticides on eggshell thickness and endangered and threatened species, Fred Alsop is an avid field biologist and birder, and has identified more than 2,500 species of birds worldwide.
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Introduction

Birdwatching, or birding as it is now commonly called, is practiced by more than 60 million North Americans - making it the single largest hobby on the continent. North America is an exciting place to go birding because it holds billions of birds representing more than 900 species that are permanent or summer residents, visit regularly, or stray occasionally to the continent.

AVIAN DIVERSITY

Having attained the power of flight more than 150 million years ago, birds might be expected to be uniformly distributed in every corner of the earth. But they are not. They are bound to the earth by the habitats to which they have adapted and limited by geographical barriers as well as the history of their lineage.

Different species are often associated with major plant communities, or biomes, that provide them with critical habitat requirements for part or all of their annual cycle. Polar regions of permanent ice and snow are home to Ivory Gulls; the arctic tundra to Snowy Owls, ptarmigans, jaegers, Gyrfalcons, and countless shorebirds in summer. The great block of northern coniferous forests provide seeds for crossbills, grosbeaks, finches, and nuthatches; in summer, insects for flycatchers, vireos, and warblers abound. Deciduous forests, southern pine forests, grasslands, and deserts all hold particular species of birds different from those in other biomes. Other species, such as herons, are adapted for freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams; still others for marshes and seashores as well as the open ocean.

BIRDWATCHING IN EASTERN NORTH AMERICA

The avian diversity of eastern North America is reflected in the more than 690 species of birds that have been recorded roughly east of the 100th meridian, the approximate north-south line used as a division in creating this book as an eastern edition. Within the eastern half of the continent lie the ancient mountains of the Appalachians, the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, grasslands, southern swamps and pine forests, the massive eastern deciduous forests, the great Lakes, boreal coniferous forests, tundra, and ice fields. Among the birds inhabiting this vast area is the continent's greatest diversity of wood warblers.

Many birdwatchers practice their hobby close to their own backyards. They learn to recognize the species they see most often and occasionally identify a "new" species for the yard, perhaps even photograph the birds they see. Many take their birding to the field. Some are so passionate that they travel North America identifying as many species as they can, often covering many miles on short notice to observe a newly discovered vagrant.

Not even the most ardent birder has seen all of the more than 920 species now accepted as having occurred in North America. But that is part of the fun and challenge of birding. It holds something for every level of interest, and the amateur birder stands as much chance as the professional of making a discovery that sheds important light on the field of ornithology.

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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
I have always loved the great outdoors and observing wildlife. My earliest recollection of roaming the woods is with my father, perched high on his broad shoulders as we ventured near our Kentucky home in pursuit of wild game for the dinner table. At age five I saw my first wild birds outside my grandfather's kitchen window, curiously watching him scatter cracked corn and breadcrumbs onto the snow. Before this I had only seen him feed farmyard animals and the family dog. He never knew their proper names, but he pointed out jaybirds (blue jays), redbirds (northern cardinals), snowbirds (dark-eyed juncos), and sparrows.

I delighted in the pursuit of nature in the woods, creek, and pond in those North Kentucky hills. At age 11, I joined a new troop of Boy Scouts organized in our small town of Hawesville and instantly set my sites on earning the Bird Study Merit Badge -- that is, until I read the requirements. I was quickly dismayed to learn that a candidate scout must identify 20 species of local birds! Try as I might, I could only think of 10 or 12 species I had seen in my entire life. I went on to earn my Eagle Scout rank, but I never obtained the bird study badge. (Years later, as an accomplished ornithologist, I have well exceeded that count, with over 3,200 species on my list.)

I was the first in my family to go to college. Understandably, my parents were very proud that I had decided to pursue my education beyond high school. My father had worked at many jobs from the time he graduated high school in the depression of the early 1930s, and most of them required hard physical labor in places like the shipyards in southern Indiana and in the coal mines of Kentucky. He was especially proud that I, his oldest child, was going to college, and I think he envisioned that I would become a doctor or lawyer and live a life much easier than his. When I chose to become a fine arts major and to develop my talent for drawing and painting, he did not say much. Even though I later chose to double major in biology, my father's only remark about my future as an artist with an interest in birdwatching was, "Son, have you thought of learning a trade while you're at school?"

My biology classes opened my eyes to a fascinating world that built upon my boyhood days in the woods and my passion for wildlife. I was soon introduced to a new assistant professor, David H. Snyder. Dave, a skilled birder, and I spent many Saturdays in the field together, simply mesmerized by the array of birds around us. From then on I was hooked! On bimonthly trips to my parents' home, I would disappear into the farmlands for most of the weekend with binoculars and a field guide, reappearing only for meals and to babble on about the new and exciting birds I had seen. The pure joy of finding 65 species on the family acres in one weekend in spring was beyond my wildest dreams!

In the years since, I have become a biologist rather than a professional artist, earning a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Tennessee. I have followed birds around the world, while my father has followed my career -- with some relief that I could make a living doing what I love most. I am now a full-time birder and ornithologist at East Tennessee State University and have introduced many of my students to the creatures, both great and small, that inhabit their "backyards." And I still carry with me my childhood passion for going into the woods to observe the wondrous creatures of the wild.

Good birding! (Fred Alsop III)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2006

    Good reference book

    Too cumbersome to be considered a field guide, but, not bad as a reference book. Not very in-depth, however.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2001

    Fantastic New Bird Guides

    This is a terrific new guide. I'm relatively new to birding so I really appreciate the detail and the amazing bird pictures. There is so much information here, but it's still not too big to carry around when birding. I'm impressed!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 8, 2010

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