Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Global Birding: Traveling the World in Search of Birds by Les Beletsky

Bonnie brings home great books. The latest is a glossy National Geographic guide titled Global Birding: Traveling the World in Search of Birds by Les Beletsky with birding narratives by David L. Pearson. Bonnie had been looking at it and left it on the coffee table. I am afraid that I snatched it for several days, but I did leave her bookmark in place. It is hers again now.

Throughout Global Birding are amazingly beautiful pictures of birds and landscapes from every continent. The colors of some of the bee-eaters, kingfishers, hummingbirds, manakins, tanagers, sunbirds, parrots, berrypeckers, and other exotic birds are brilliant. You don't have to read the text to enjoy the book, but there is much to be learned if you do. I particularly liked the second chapter "The Geography of Birds" about the distribution of birds around the world. The discussions of what the different continents have to attract bird populations explains why North America north of Mexico is relatively bird-poor compared with hotspots, such as Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Indonesia. Ironically, the rain forests that attract these birds also make them hard for birders to spot. In his highlighted narratives, David L. Pearson recounts some of his birding efforts. I laughed at his story of seeking Argentina's Yellow Cardinals unsuccessfully for days and then finding two pairs of them sitting on their car's luggage rack as they prepared to depart a bird preserve.

Most of the book is a continent-by-continent assessment of travel destinations. While the author does not recommend actual tour operators or lodges, he points birders to regions and countries and identifies many field guides and websites to help them make arrangements. The text may get a little dry for non-birders, but those working on life lists or just wanting to see the most sought birds will appreciate this handsome book.

Beletsky, Les. Global Birding: Traveling the World in Search of Birds. National Geographic, 2010. ISBN 9781426206405.

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