When I was in library school at the University of Texas, one of my classes toured the University of Texas Press. It had recently retooled, if I remember correctly, incorporating new automated technology. I remember huge metal plates for printing pages. It was the late 1970s, so I am sure much has changed since, but I was impressed. I did not at the time have the foresight to realize that many years later I would be reading many books published there.
Several years ago I read The Robin by Roland H. Wauer, which is in the Corrie Herring Hooks series of natural history books from the University of Texas Press. At the time, I noticed that there were other books to add to my to-read list. Now I am finally moving a few titles to my books-I've-read list.
The first I read this month was The Cardinal by June Osborne with photographs by Barbara Garland. Osborne describes the seasonal life of the easy-to-identify redbird, starting with January and progressing through the year. In the process, she tells how the species has flourished, much like the robin, as Americans altered the environment. Once the species was a southern bird but now it inhabits much of the U.S. and parts of Canada year round. This is after cardinals were threatened in the late 19th century by people trapping them for the caged bird trade. Luckily legislation in southern states and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 saved them.
While 19th century Americans people caged cardinals for their beauty, they caged the mostly drab northern mockingbird for its song. According to Robin W. Doughty in his The Mockingbird, the master mimic has benefited from human migration as much as the cardinal. The northern mockingbird was also once a southern bird but now is found across much of the United States and has been found in Canada. It is the only member of its genus in the United States; there are 7 to 9 other species (depending on how you define the species) in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. My Texas friends will enjoy this book as much of the described field work was in that state.
I have started reading Return of the Whooping Crane, which is also by Robin W. Doughty and published at the press. I had intended to describe it here, but it is a longer book and deserves much more attention. Look for a review in an upcoming post.
As I get more serious about birding, I may be turning to more titles from the University of Texas Press. Some are a couple decades old and apparently out of print, but they are provide good basic descriptions, insightful history, and colorful photos. They may still in many library collections.
Osborne, June. The Cardinal. University of Texas Press, 1992. 108p. ISBN 0292711476.
Doughty, Robin W. The Mockingbird. University of Texas Press, 1988. 80p. ISBN 0292750994.