birds of a feather…a fabulous flock of five books about birding

look up birdwatching in your own backyard cover imageLook up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Robins hopping across the grass, drilling their beaks into the earth, snagging a worm.
Pigeons strutting, flashing their metallic sheen, nabbing bits of stale popcorn on the sidewalk.
Mallard ducks, emerald capped, lounging on ponds with their soft-brown mates.

One nice thing about birds is that no matter where you are, there are almost certainly birds about for you to watch and enjoy, and even these most common birds I’ve just mentioned have a beauty and delight worth look up illustration2 annette leblanc catenoticing.

Annette Cate has written a fantastic new book packed with sunny advice on how to begin looking more carefully at the birds around us. She is all about urging us to observe, sketch, and identify these feathered beauties. “The point is,” she says, “spending time outside observing life and drawing in a sketchbook can help you to see the world in a whole new way.” Exactly true!

Cate entices us into the hobby of birding and nature-sketching with fascinating information parceled out in manageable bits, punctuated with loads of witty banter by birds and humans alike in conversation bubbles that beg to be read, and illustrated profusely in imaginative, sketchbook styling.

Gorgeous color wheels of birds, close-ups of feet and beaks to help us hone in on what to spot first, bird behaviors to watch for, a lesson on field markings, a guide to field guides, and short introductions to topics like bird ranges, classification, migration…there is so much information crammed into this one small book, handled so artistically and winsomely. It’s not a one-sitting book; it’s a lovely resource to have on hand along with sketchbook, colored pencils, and beginning field guide (as well as some cookies, probably) to open up a glorious doorway to nature study, outdoor ramblings, and the wonder of birding for kids and adults of all ages.

birds of a feather cover imageBirds of a Feather, by Francisco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais

Holy Moly! It’s a book! It’s a puzzle! It’s a treasure chest! It’s so much fun, and it’s all about birds!

birds of a feather illustration pittau and gervais

This jumbo-sized book (15 x 11 inches) contains one heavy-duty page after another filled with fascinating and clever flaps to lift, pictures to pop up, and puzzle pieces to flip. Riveting illustrations. Highly unusual displays. Oodles of bird facts. Irresistable!

Flip up a silhouette to learn about the bird with that crazy crest or those knobby knees. Choose from a dozen large flaps with close ups of gorgeous wings to find out which bird sports these beautifully colored feathers. Open the variously-speckled and sized eggs to see who will hatch.  Match up all the right flaps to construct one of six exotic birds. Unlock the jigsaw pieces to discover who is spying out at you.

Originally published in France, this is one of the most unusual books I’ve seen, and sure to spark curiosity in anyone with a heartbeat. Grab this one for kids of any age or just for yourself!

for the birds cover imageFor the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, by Peggy Thomas, illustrated by Laura Jacques

Roger Tory Peterson’s field guides to birds are some of the most familiar on the shelves, but I’m going to bet that most of us know very little about this man and his vast contributions to conservation as well as ornithology.

Like so many naturalists, Peterson fell in love with nature as a child (a great reason, by the way, to get your kids out of doors from babyhood on!) for the birds illustration laura jacquespressing wildflowers, collecting moths, and eagerly participating in his local Junior Audubon Club. A chance encounter with a startled flicker inspired his lifelong study of birds.

Peterson grew up at a time when the only available field guides to birds were scholarly tomes whose descriptions were quite unhelpful for identifying birds in the wild. His painstaking observations, sketches, and notes allowed him to teach others how to identify birds much more easily, and his first, innovative field guide was an instant success. In addition, his lifelong studies led him to decry the effect of DDT years before Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, and to travel the world advocating for the protection of birds.

Peggy Thomas’ biography is an interesting account of a man who recevied an incredible array of honors throughout his life, yet is largely unknown by most of us today. Fascinating details of his childhood, his birding techniques, and his life of devotion to these lovely creatures, are engagingly written for ages 7 and older. It’s a bit lengthier than many picture-book biographies, with mixed media illustrations and some nice ink drawings.

bird talk cover imageBird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, written and illustrated by Lita Judge

Far more easy than spotting birds, is hearing them. Chirping, warbling, pipping, cawing…if we hold still and listen, so many sounds meet us. What do all these sounds mean?

Sometimes they mean: Pay attention to me!
Sometimes: Be careful there, young’un!
Sometimes: I’m hungry, mama!

Lita Judge has provided this delightful sort of catalog of birds, describing bird talk illustration lita judgethe various calls they make and their purposes. Her magnificent illustrations flood the pages with life and delight and motion. The darling-ness of chicks and the strength of hawks in flight, the ostentatious dances and displays, and the glorious array of colorful feathers grab our attention with every page turn.

Perfect tidbits of information accompany each spotlit bird, expanding our sense of wonder as we begin to grasp the array of ideas communicated by their music, as well as other types of bird behaviors.  It’s an incredibly engaging book for preschoolers and up.

Included is a list with thumbnail illustrations of each bird and a few more facts plus their habitats and ranges, a glossary of bird terminology,  and a lovely Author’s Note tracing Lita Judge’s fascinating background in birding, growing up with ornithologists for grandparents. Love this book!

puffling patrol cover imagePuffling Patrol, by Ted and Betsy Lewin

Off the coast of Iceland, a cluster of islands host “one of the largest puffin colonies in the world.” The birds migrate here by the hundreds of thousands in springtime, living in burrows in the rocky cliffs.

Now, here’s the odd bit. When it’s time to take off again in August, some of the little newbies get muddled by the lights of the small towns and land in the street rather than heading for the sea. This is a problem because they can’t take off again from street level. They need to launch themselves into the sea breezes from cliffside.

Puffling Patrol to the rescue! Out go the local kids, armed with boxes and flashlights, to gather up these little fellows, get them inspected by the team of biologists, then re-launch them from the beaches.

Ted and Betsy Lewin have quite the dream gig, traveling about the world puffling patrol illustration ted and betsy lewinexperiencing these amazing places, meeting such interesting people, then writing and illustrating it for all of us to thoroughly enjoy! I certainly have enjoyed many, many of their books. This one is absolutely fascinating, as we learn about these delightful birds, the research being done in Iceland, and follow twin 8-year-olds as they care for the birds in their unique island homeland.

Of course, the writing and illustrations are superb. There are several additional pages with facts about puffins and information about an enormous volcanic eruption 40 years ago which threatened these islanders’ homes, plus a glossary and handy pronunciation guide for those Icelandic words sprinkled in the text.  Fantastic choice for kindergarteners and up.

Here are Amazon links for this fine-feathered collection:

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
Birds of a Feather
For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why
Puffling Patrol