Book Review: “1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know”

1001SecretseverybirdershouldknowFrom the time I learned that Sharon “Birdchick” Stiteler was coming out with a new book earlier this year, I looked forward to getting a copy.

1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know: Tips and Trivia For The Backyard And Beyond (Running Press, April 2013) is a great bird book that covers everything birders, especially beginning birders, need to know about birding and birds, with more than 1,001 secrets in 296 pages. As Sharon writes in her introduction,

This book is to help you enjoy birds. I want to share with you insights of bird behavior — the spark bird that drives many of us to watch them. Most people love listing all the birds that they’ve seen because at the end of the day, bird-watching is more than a hobby. It’s an activity you can enjoy no matter where you travel to on the planet. It’s a scavenger hunt, and the objects fly and sometimes change color! It’s an adventure. But there’s so much more to enjoy about birds beyond seeing a new species.

In addition to being a writer, blogger and a digisicoper, Sharon is also an avian field ecologist, has worked as a National Park Ranger, and started in the bird feeding industry (one of her earlier books is City Birds/Country Birds: How Anyone Can Attract Birds to Their Feeder). She also has a great sense of humor and is very creative (testing how waterproof scopes and binoculars are by taking a bath with them, and with one of the best birding podcasts out there). As you can see from all of her writing — online and in books — Sharon is passionate not just about birds but also about wanting as many people as possible to understand and appreciate birds. This passion, humour, and creativity, is what makes this book so good. In his introduction to the book, English ornithologist/naturalist and entertainer Bill Oddie (who a few years ago also wrote an introduction to birdwatching), writes, “I think I would go so far as to say that if I were to write a book about birds that was amusing, informative, and sometimes a bit rude, this would be it.” He says a little bit more, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!

The design of the book is very attractive (light and airy, not too dense with text) and all the photos are full-color. Sharon took most of the photos, many of which were digiscoped with her iPhone, and the rest were taken by her blog readers (disclosure: I submitted a few but none were accepted. However, some of my friend Dan Arndt’s photos were used).

This book is filled with lots of great information: bird feeding tips, travel ideas for the best birding hot spots, bird trivia, and ideas for bird jobs. At the bottom of most pages, Sharon dispels common myths about birds in a feature called “Bird Busting!” You can see the feature, and also the layout style, here,


This book is a great choice for birders to give to the almost-birders in their lives, the family and friends you know who like birds but who might like to know more about them, even if it’s just some crazy bird trivia, or how to get more birds to come to the feeders in your yard. Even non-birders might become more favorably inclined to birds after reading this book — I found one of my younger brothers (who likes to call me a “bird nerd”) reading the book and enjoying it, although he will never admit it! The book includes chapters on attracting and feeding birds, nesting and roosting (and bird houses), bird anatomy and adaptations, commonly asked questions about birds (“Why are those smaller birds attacking that hawk?”), migration, mating, how birds raise their young (including what Sharon calls some “lethal parenting methods”), and how to learn more about birding and bird watching. The back of the book also has a glossary, as well as a bibliography, a suggested reading list for different levels — Beginner, Knows more than the average bear, Hard-core maxi bird books, Articles and online resources. I think Sharon’s breezy and humorous writing voice, and the general layout of this book, make it suitable for all ages, from older kids to adults of all ages. And the book would also be a very good choice for libraries, as very a useful reference for those who are looking to learn more about birds and birding.

Birders who know more than the average birder, and even hardcore maxi types can also find useful hints, tips, and trivia here, from the first-ever (and Nobel prize-winning) case of bird necrophilia, to the 10 areas that should be on ever birder’s bucket list. I finished this book on my recent plane trip to NYC and it was great to have in my backpack, especially because I could read it in short chunks, and it was always informative and often funny. Sharon writes in the book,

I love bird-watching because there’s no right or wrong way to do it, and as long as you are’t wiping out a whole species by the way you enjoy birds, do what feels good to you. If you enjoy listing and categorizing every bird you see — that’s terrific. If you like to peek out your window and see a chickadee at your feeder — that’s great. … Just get out there and watch the birds.

You can buy the book from your favorite bookseller or from It’s also available for the Kindle edition.

Here’s a video Birdchick made about her book,

Birding News #20

:: Birders in Fredericton, New Brunswick are excited by the large numbers of large numbers of Chimney Swifts in the area

:: The endangered Hawaiian Hawks have been found injured on Big Island

:: A story from The New Yorker about how birds talk

:: In some places, bumblebees steal bird nests, using their “buzz” to scare away the birds.

:: Arctic Terns breeding in the Netherlands migrate to their wintering in Antarctica, by way of New Zealand!

:: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has released its Master Set of 4,938 downloadable bird songs, a project that has taken 80 years to complete.

:: Many Atlantic Puffins are dying of starvation because of what scientists think is a shifting fish population and the rise of the ocean’s temperature.

:: The Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station in Toronto banded its 2,500th bird for the Spring season earlier this week! And here is a story from CBC about the research station.

:: 48 birders were rescued from a sinking ship while on a pelagic trip in England

:: Tree Swallows are getting lots of help in Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Linda at Photo Feathers: American Woodcocks at The Biggest Week

:: From Timothy at Backyard Chirper: Birder vs. Birdwatcher: What’s in a Name?

:: From Mia at On The Wing Photography: Bubble, Bubble, Oil is Trouble

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: Biggest Week 2013

:: From Pat, beat writer for Birding is Fun: Whoo Says It’s Too Close

:: From Greg, guest writer for Birds CalgaryFrank Lake Ibis Colony Destroyed?

:: From David at A Calgary Birder: Magic Moments with a Nest Box (full disclosure — I have a photo and get a mention in the post…)

:: My friend Marcel’s Baillie Birdathon results — featuring spudnuts!

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 #12

:: For the first time since 1955, a pair of Bald Eagles have successfully hatched chicks on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Here is the story from CTV, CBC, and The Hamilton Spectator.

:: The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York State might introduce Spruce Grouse into the Adirondacks as early as this year to help repopulate the native population which is facing extinction as early as 2020.

:: A wild pair of Whooping Cranes in Louisiana have built a nest, but the pair aren’t old enough to produce eggs this year. It’s still very good news!

:: Visit the BirdCast website to see when birds are expected to migrate through your area

:: Sandhill Cranes are wreaking havoc on the baseball and soccer fields in Gibbon, Nebraska.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From the Backyard Chirper: How to Clean Your Hummingbird Feeder

:: From Laurence at Butler’s Birds: One and Only Patagonia

:: From Drew, beat writer at Nemesis Bird: Delaware Birders Robbed of 1st State Record

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: The latest Birdchick Podcast

:: From Mia at On the Wing Photography: A Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk Learning to Hunt

Birding News #9

:: Rare Bird Alert in Canada: A Gray Heron (Code 5) has been found at Little Heart’s Ease, Newfoundland

:: Scientists are discussing whether Passenger Pigeons can be brought back from extinction through genetic technology

:: Noise pollution is affecting how birds communicate

:: Bird droppings are crystals

:: The warming climate is affecting the Arctic seasons

:: You can see some of John James Audubon’s original paintings at the New York Historical Society until May 19, 2013

:: Some birds that lived 130 million years ago flew with four wings

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Jennie at The Eyrie (the ABA’s young birder blog): Announcing the 2013 Young Birders of the Year!

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: The latest Birdchick Podcast

:: From 10,000 Birds: I and the Bird: What is a Heron?

:: From Mia at On the Wing Photography: Weird Canada Geese behavior and a Red-tailed Hawk building a nest

:: From Gyorgy at SzimiStyle BirdingWalking among Red-breasted Geese

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s BirdsBullock’s Oriole and Lizard Weather