Book Review: Birding For the Curious


There are a lot of volumes geared toward new birders, but Nate Swick’s first book, Birding for the Curious: The Easiest Way for Anyone to Explore the Incredible World of Birds, is perhaps the only book ever written for non-birders. This is the perfect book for gardeners, armchair naturalists, and others who find themselves considering birding as a hobby.

Nate’s knowledge and enthusiastic style makes birding seem very easy and appealing for non-birders. while the book is intended for adults, it would also be the perfect book for older kids. While Nate is an experienced birder who writes at his The Drinking Bird blog, is the editor for the American Birding Association’s blog, and is a contributor for the 10,000 Birds blog, his new book offers is a very gentle introduction, an easy and unintimidating first step, to birding.

The book has 10 chapters, which covers such subjects as using a field guide, choosing binoculars, the basics of identifying birds, and citizen science. The chapters aren’t very long, but the information provided is solid and very useful. Each chapter has at least one “activity”, such as going on a bird walk or learning how to pish.

Nate is a big user and advocate of eBird and writes about it in the book, even devoting two “activities” to learning how to submit sightings to, and finding birds with, eBird. However, he mentions only one birding app (BirdLog), and while I do understand that new apps are being released all the time (and others are going through changes), the book could have benefited from a list of basic birding apps that would be helpful to new, especially younger birders.

The book has a few photographs as well as watercolour illustrations. The latter are fairly unusual for books of this nature. But I think they work well with the subject and also with Nate’s style of writing, encouraging the reader to pick up a field guide and learn more about birds.

As an entry level birding book, Birding for the Curious is an excellent choice anyone looking for a gentle introduction to a hobby that is a passion for so many of us. The book is available as a hardcover (which is perfect for schools and libraries) and as an eBook, which makes it very portable. This would make an excellent gift for the beginning or young birder in your life.


Thank you very much to Page Street Publishing for providing me with a review copy.

Birding News #16

:: Rare Bird Alert in Canada: A Garganey (Code 4) has been found around Mirabel, Laurentides, Quebec.

:: A pair of Peregrine Falcons at the Bell Tower in Edmonton, Alberta, have laid three eggs, and the Alberta Conservation Association has put up a cam so you can watch the pair via live streaming.

:: BirdWatching Magazine has a list of 19 books about birds that have been recently published, and the editors’ favorites

:: A man from Alaska defended his family from a bear attack using his spotting scope and tripod

:: About 50 ducks were rescued in Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan, after landing in potash waste water ponds

:: The Madagascar Pochard is the world’s rarest duck and now, 58 of them are part of a captive breeding program to help stabilize the wild population 

:: Birders are getting very frustrated with shooters who are disrespectful of the Pawnee National Grassland in Colorado

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Landon at Two Birders and Binoculars: Where do Birds Sleep?

:: From Russell at BC Rare Bird Alert: Help Support The Spoon-billed Sandpiper

:: From Sharon, beat writer for 10,000 Birds: How Close is “Too Close” to an Owl?

:: From Ryan, beat writer for Birding is Fun: A Hybrid Dusky Grouse x Sharp-tailed Grouse

:: From Mia at On The Wing Photography: Bird Sampler for April 28 through May 4, 2013

Birding News #15

:: A Common Loon spent 43 days incubating, trying to hatch a pair of rocks

:: An opinion piece by author and birder Brian Kimberling for The New York Times, on “What do the birders know?”  Mr. Kimberling’s new book, Snapper, just published on April 23rd by Pantheon, is about an amateur ornithologist and future falconer. NPR has a good review, with a picture of the lovely cover, here. Also, a good interview with Mr. Kimberling, “the twitcher of Evansville”, at The Independent (UK) here:

the level of detail and casually assured knowledge evident in Snapper, the book which could do for birdwatchers what Annie Proulx did for small-town newspaper reporters and gay cowboys, would tend to suggest that he’s being over-modest. But it’s not a book about birds; more a book about a birdwatcher, Nathan Lochmueller, who is employed by Indiana University to track and log the nesting habits of songbirds in a specific corner of woodland near Evansville.

:: Have you ever wondered what a woodpecker tongue looks like? Find out here!

:: Researchers are studying American Crows to learn more about their evolutionary behavior

:: The pair of Bald Eagles from the eagle cam in Washington, DC has just recently hatched chicks

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s Birds: In Search of Nighthawks

:: From Hugh at Round Robin294 Species and One Shattered Record on “Almost Perfect” Big Day

:: From Steve at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds: Birds for Bullshit Artists, A Pipit of Excellent Posture, and More

:: From the Backyard Chirper: 10 Interesting Facts About Chickadees

:: From Drew at Nemesis Bird: ***MEGA*** Bahama Woodstar, Lancaster PA

:: From Carrie at 10,000 BirdsEurasian Tree Sparrow From Long Ago

Birding News #14

:: The results from the 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count are out

:: Feral cats in Hawaii are killing endangered Hawaiian Petrels

:: Vets at the Oregon Zoo assisted the hatching of an endangered California Condor

:: More than 12,000 Eared Grebes crashed landed in Utah earlier this week

:: An article from Yukon News about the declining population numbers of the American Kestrel

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Dan at Nature Observances: Tree Swallow Study

:: From Sharon, beat writer for 10,000 Birds: When is Baiting Birds OK?

:: From Mia at On the Wing Photography: Shades of Blue — Wildflowers, Birds, Sky, and Sea

:: From Larry at The Brownstone Birding Blog: 10 Things On My Spring Birding To-Do List

:: From David at  A Calgary Birder: The Last Duck

:: From Kathy at Still Life With a BirderFerruginous Hawk

:: From Sharon at BirdchickThe latest Birdchick podcast

Birding News #13

:: Rare Bird Alert in Canada: A Crested Caracara has been spotted in Lawrencetown Beach in Nova Scotia

:: Adelie Penguins are benefiting from climate change

:: Prince Edward Island Bald Eagles are suffering from lead poisoning

:: Hopefully, this time the Gunnison Sage-Grouse get the protection it needs

:: After Superstorm Sandy destroyed beaches along Delaware Bay, the beaches need reconstruction before the endangered Red Knots arrive in May

:: Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory use radio transmitters to study the movements of Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows

:: From David Sibley, how to identify flycatchers by the calendar

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Colton at Shortgrass Birding: Sage Thrasher

:: From Mia at On the Wing PhotographyMountain Plovers — A Dream Come True

:: From James, beat writer for 10,000 Birds: 448 Great Thing to Do in Nature

:: From 10,000 Birds: I and the Bird: What Is a Robin?

:: From Alex at Nemesis BirdMagnificent Frigatebird — Determining Age and Sex

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: The latest Birdchick podcast

Birding News #11

:: Some facts about migrating birds and their long-distance journeys from Nature Canada

:: Tips for identifying tricky finches

:: Starvation could be the reason hundreds of dead puffins washed ashore on the east coast of the United Kingdom

:: A little bit about the Short-eared Owl, an endangered species in Michigan

:: In New Jersey, the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Camera was attacked by a Red-tailed Hawk. Unfortunately, the hawk didn’t make it out alive: “They finished off the hawk already,” Almendinger said. “They were eating trout yesterday.”

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Scott, beat writer, at Birding Is Fun: Identifying Waterthrushes

:: From Sharon, beat writer, at Bird Canada: Drilling for “oil” in the nursery

:: From Nate, beat writer at 10,000 Birds: IATB Theme: I Want Robins, Of All Kinds

:: From Laurence, beat writer, at Birding Is Fun: The Empid Enigma: To Catch a Flycatcher

:: From Bill of Bill of the BirdsThey’re Baaaaack

:: From Dan, beat writer for Birds CalgarySunday Showcase: Long-eared Owl