When MBA Mama gave me the list of DK books available for us to review, I didn’t expect a bird watching guide to be part of the mix. This was a pleasant surprise since I’m following a detox diet right now and I can’t eat dairy, sugar or wheat, so cookbooks are off the list of things to write about for a few more weeks.
I must confess that I’m not a novice bird watcher. In fact, I studied bird and animal identification as part of my Biology degree program. The reason I chose this book was to see whether my daughter and the other kids in the neighbourhood could use it to identify the many birds in our backyard. A backyard that is a hop, skip and jump from the woodlands and wetlands beside the Grand River in Southwestern Ontario.
This book is a great book for beginners. I was impressed with quite a few things, for example the:
- Narrow size of the book is ideal for small hands or carrying in a pocket.
- The photographs and images are clear and accurate.
- Brief descriptions for the identifying features – size, shape, sound, flight patterns, etc. – are easy to understand.
- ‘Close to home’ section includes many of the most common birds in North America.
- Profile categories make it easy to learn about common characteristics and habitats. There are also hints that highlight the features to look for when identifying the birds in the category.
- Bird Gallery at the back of the book categorizes the birds by colour, making it easier to remember feather patterns and other common features since they are grouped together.
- Scientific name section is interesting and of value, but as a beginner I don’t think I would ever use it, unless for a school project.
- I used the book to confirm two birds I’ve seen on the Grand River over the last few weeks – male and female Common Mergansers. I usually see Gulls, Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese at this time of year, but I was confused as to what these birds were, since I couldn’t get a clear look at the Mergansers until a few days ago. Reviewing this DK book was very timely and helped me solve the mystery.
As much as I like this book and I will encourage my daughter to use it, I would have liked to have a more comprehensive size comparison graph/chart. The author talks about size and how it’s an important feature when identifying a bird, but doesn’t include a visual aid to help with the concept. I think a novice would find a size comparison diagram (smallest to largest) useful. I understand that space in a printed book is limited, but even a two-page spread would helpful (IMHO).
In conclusion, if you (or someone you know) are a novice birdwatcher, What’s that Bird? is a great resource to help you start identifying the birds in your backyard, where ever it might be…
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. No other compensation was received.