Maine and Minnesota share a large number of bird species. They also both have in book form comprehensive assessments of the life of their birds. The newest of those is the book “Birds of Maine,” to be released by Princeton University Press on Nov. 3.
It is a complete examination of Maine bird life, historic and present.
The first and most complete examination of Minnesota birdlife was written by Dr. Thomas Sadler Robbins, published in two volumes by the University of Minnesota Press in 1932. Roberts’ book offered information on the occurrence of Minnesota species, their distribution, habitat, and migration (early and late dates).
His work was updated in 1987 by Robert Janssen, who in 2019 brought that book current with publication of a revised edition of “Birds in Minnesota.” Janssen’s books focus on distribution and migration. He updates our species list to 445, more than 100 species added to the list Roberts produced for the 1932 publication.
Peter Vickery worked for decades on “Birds of Maine,” dying in 2017 before he could complete the project. A team of coauthors finished it.
Vickery’s book has a broad focus offering more and different information than the Minnesota summaries. It discusses in detail all 464 bird species recorded in that state.
Most of Vickery’s work deals with abundance, distribution, and seasonal occurrence. He includes data on present state status, historical status, and global distribution.
The book’s introductory chapters reflect the efforts of others to complete this work. They include his wife Barbara and their sons, Gabriel and Simon, and many friends, students, and colleagues.
Their contributions put Peter Vickery’s work in context. These chapters easily could be read and enjoyed by anyone with a serious interest in ornithology, regardless of location.
The Maine book was edited by Scott Weidensaul and Barbara Vickery.
“Birds of Maine” has 642 pages. Roberts two volumes total 1,568 pages. Janssen takes 583 pages to make current the Roberts work.
Roberts’ book is illustrated with paintings, Janssen’s with photos of all species. The Vickery work uses pen-and-ink sketches by Barry Van Dusen and 12 beautiful watercolors by Lars Jonsson. There are many maps, usefulness enhanced by their large size.
The book discusses conservation efforts driven by the rapid environmental changes being experienced everywhere. Vickery discusses birds of southern Maine moving north, northern birds expanding south, and the conservation techniques employed in restoration of once-absent native species like the Atlantic puffin.
Included are anecdotes that brighten and broaden the species accounts.
This rich presentation of the past, present, and future of Maine birdlife is a fitting memorial to Peter Vickery who devoted so much of his life to this project.
Price of the book is $45.