From 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.
Here’s a video Birdchick made about her book,