Trogons, Laughing Falcons, and Other Neotropical Birds / Edition 1

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Renowned naturalist Alexander F. Skutch 's critically acclaimed book The Minds of Birds first introduced a controversial review of bird behavior. Now, in possibly his last book on birds, he reflects on a memorable career brimmed with discovery and controversy.Trogons, Laughing Falcons, and Other Neotropical Birds looks at the lifetime dedication of an expert naturalist who for seventy years has studied birds in tropical America, from Mexico to Peru and Venezuela. A pair of Violaceous Trogons, the only New World birds known to nest in an arboreal ants' nest; a pair of Laughing Falcons, the only raptors that might be called friends of small birds; hummingbirds who learn the songs they repeat in courtship assemblies that attract females; soaring kites that catch insects with their feet instead of their bills, as flycatchers do; and other notable birds are covered in "vintage" Skutch style.Skutch also tells of the only wild birds he has ever raised from eggs, two Gray-headed Chachalacas who became strongly attached to their foster parents. These and other unpublished observations on Neotropical birds, plus accounts published long ago in journals not now widely available, updated by new observations and interpretations, will add to the famous Skutch literature. His lifetime of conscientious observation and the information he imparts are invaluable and compelling.Complemented with intricate line drawings, Trogons, Laughing Falcons, and Other Neotropical Birds, an imperative addition to any ornithologist's literary collection, blends solid natural history with entertaining reading.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Venerable 94-year-old Skutch, author of over 25 books (Orioles, Blackbirds, and Their Kin, LJ 3/1/96), has observed nature in the tropics for 70 years, decades before "the rainforest" became the routine high-school assignment it is now. Aside from being a first-rate naturalist, he writes well, at times philosophically, and--dangerous for a scientist--emotionally. His new book has 19 chapters on a potpourri of subjects: various hummingbirds, flycatchers, snake-eating birds, and such unusual topics as "birdlike monkeys," "the strenuous lives of migratory birds," and "the birds I love." Much of the action centers around Skutch's farm in Costa Rica. Like his other books, this one has abundant insight and unique, first-hand observations of the lives of tropical animals and plants. For academic and larger public libraries.--Henry T. Armistead, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
Skutch (A Naturalist Amid Tropical Splendor, 1987, etc.) has had the chance, the curiosity, and the resolve-for over 70 years-to observe the habits of little-known tropical birds, and the gleanings here add random, intelligent insights to our stock of avian wonder. Now 94 years old, Skutch has spent most of his life in the tropics observing animals, and for the most part birds. This collection of essays concentrates on bird behavior that runs counter to form: raptors that nurse-maid small birds of other species, birds that make their home in the nests of arboreal termites or treetop vespiaries, the hunting peculiarities of the swallow-tailed kite (it gathers insects with its feet). He covers courtship activities of long-tailed hermits and adorable coquettes, the nesting ways of snowy-breast, beryl-crown, and violet-headed hummingbirds, and birdsong (his wife once heard a grayish saltator sing "look now, you're a great big girl"). He knows his birds like other people know their cousins: Take the piratic flycatcher, which "announces its presence by a variety of thin, breezy whistles that suggest a careless, easygoing, vagabond nature." His piece on the resemblance of marmosets and tamarinds, two primates, to tropical birds-coloration, grooming, vocalizations, diurnality-is a stretch: it fails to coalesce into a meaningful, let alone provocative, picture. But on the whole, the observations are keen fruits of a lifetime spent behind binoculars, and the writing is dignified and unadorned. A typical leisured and place-setting lead runs: "As I walked along a woodland trail, a startled Great Tinamou rose from the ground ahead of me." Admittedly, there is material here that fallsa few sparks short of explosive-the scant depth of the rufous piha's nest, for example-but Skutch always invests his findings with the high purpose of bell-clear scholarship, even when of the footnote variety. (27 line drawings) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780890968505
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Louise Lindsey Merrick Natural Environment Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander F. Skutch wrote more than twenty-five books on birds and nature, including The Minds of Birds, also published by Texas A&M University Press. He lived and worked in Costa Rica for many years.

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