Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion

When you think of a bird identification book, you don’t usually think of a fun read. Pete Dunne has changed this with his book, released in 2006. Dunne is a great writer. I first read his Hawks in Flight book years ago, and was awed by his ability to bring out the imagination of the reader in his descriptive writing. I remember from that book where he compared an American kestrel to a Merlin. He said a Merlin is to a Kestrel as a Harley Davidson is to a motor scooter. For birders who know these birds this is an apt description. He also called the Gyrfalcon a bird of “fire and ice.”

In the Essential Field Guide Companion Dunne goes through all of the commonly found US bird species with an account that discusses most of the things for which there is just not room enough in a true field guide, and he does it in a way that just keeps you reading.

Each species account has a memorable moniker. Great Egret is the “stately stalker.” Red knot is the “robin snipe.” This is followed by a “status” discussion where the distribution and likelihood of finding the bird is discussed. Then a list of other birds expected to be found cohabitating with the species is listed. This is followed by a discussion of migration. Next is a discussion of things helpful in field identification. He focuses especially on flight characteristics and behavior. Both of these field identification issues are poorly covered in most field guides, although Sibley does at least comment on flight identification.

You will love this book if you are a birder, and if you read it you may become a birder. It’s a beautiful story.

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