The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

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“Once in a great while, a natural history book changes the way people look at the world. In 1838, John ames Audubon’s Birds of America was one...In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson produced Field Guide to the Birds...Now comes The Sibley Guide to Birds.”

Thus did The New York Times, in 1999, greet David Allen Sibley’s monumental book, which has quickly been established nationwide as the peerless, standard bird identification guide.

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“Once in a great while, a natural history book changes the way people look at the world. In 1838, John ames Audubon’s Birds of America was one...In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson produced Field Guide to the Birds...Now comes The Sibley Guide to Birds.”

Thus did The New York Times, in 1999, greet David Allen Sibley’s monumental book, which has quickly been established nationwide as the peerless, standard bird identification guide.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior is the new landmark book from David Allen Sibley. Designed to enhance the birding experience and to enrich the popular study of North American birds, the book combines more than 795 of his full-color illustrations with authoritative text by 48 expert birders and biologists. In this new guide Sibley takes us beyond identification, to show us how birds live and what they do.

Introductory essays outline the principles of avian evolution, life cycle, body structure, flight dynamics, and more. The 80 family-by-family chapters describe the amazing range of behavior dictated by birds’ biology and environment. Among the subjects covered and illustrated are:

—molts and plumages
—food and foraging
—vocalizations and displays
—courtship and breeding
—rearing of young
—migration and movements
—scientific groupings
—introduced species
—accidental species
—flight patterns
—nests and eggs
—global distribution

Accessibly written, superbly designed and organized, and brilliantly illustrated, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior is an indispensable source of information on the avian life around us.

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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.
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.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400043866
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 115,494
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.68 (d)

Meet the Author

David Allen Sibley

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
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Great book, but beware: this book is listed as hardcover, yet it

    Great book, but beware: this book is listed as hardcover, yet it is actually softcover (but not paperback). The hardcover has a different ISBN.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Birding book

    I am developing a strong interest in wildlife conservation and especially avian conservation and identification. Found this a good reference book. Also bought the first volume. use them all the time. Good illustrations.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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