Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion

When you think of a bird identification book, you usually don’t think of a fun read. Pete Dunne has changed this with his book, published in 2006. Dunne is a great writer. I first read your book Hawks in Flight years ago and was amazed at its ability to bring out the reader’s imagination in its descriptive writing. I remember from that book where he compared an American Kestrel to a Merlin. He said a Merlin is for a Kestrel like a Harley Davidson is for a scooter. For bird watchers who are familiar with these birds, this is a fitting description. He also called the gyrfalcon a “fire and ice” bird.

In the Essential Field Guide, Companion Dunne goes over all the commonly encountered American bird species with an account that looks at most of the things for which there simply isn’t enough room in a true field guide, and does so from a way that just keeps you’re reading.

Each species account has a memorable nickname. Great Egret is the “majestic stalker”. The red knot is the “robin”. This is followed by a “state” discussion in which the distribution and probability of finding the bird is discussed. Then a list of other birds that are expected to cohabit the species is included. This is followed by a discussion on migration. The following is a discussion of useful things in field identification. It focuses especially on the characteristics and behavior of flight. Both field identification problems 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 bird watcher, and if you read it, you can become a bird watcher. It is a beautiful story.

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