Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America, Stephen A. Shunk, Houghon, Mifflin, Harcourt Publishing, hardcover, 298 pages, index, range maps, extensively illustrated, available in May, $35. Shunk lives in Oregon, where he can find and has studied 11 species of woodpecker. He has traveled to find the other 12 North American species. This is a detailed and complete account of one of our most interesting bird families. Noteworthy here are the photos, taken by 70 different photographers. Some of them in this 7x10.5-inch book show the birds at life size or close to it. I’ve had unsatisfactory views of some distant and illusive woodpeckers. This book gives me a very good idea of what they look like when the view is perfect. Covered here are life and behavior histories, habitat, with useful and complete descriptions of both vocal and non-vocal (drumming) sounds made by these birds.
One Bird at a Time, Bernd Heinrich, Houlghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, hardcover, 210 pages, index, artwork in color with some of the author’s pencil sketches, $28 — Heinrich is one of our best authors abourt birds. He has taught science for many years. He has written 18 other books you should become familiar with if you haven’t read his work before. He writes personal accounts, science with personal pronouns. At times his research amounts to him running out of his cabin to look up at whatever he heard while inside. He has had flicker woodpeckers nesting in his bedroom wall (he built special accommodations). Most of the species in his stories will be familiar to Minnesota birders. Much of what I know about Canada Geese I learned while reading his book “The Geese of Beaver Pond.” Before that, I didn’t know how to identify individual birds of that species. Much of what I know about ravens came from his book “Ravens in Winter.” He built a blind, dragged road-kill deer into viewing range, watched the ravens, learned, told it to his readers. The subtitle of this book is “Portraits of Individual Lives.” Portraits can be revealing, and these are.