How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd [8/10]

What a brilliant concept Ted Floyd, author and birding magazine editor, has devised! “How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding” offers 200 short essays on American birds, each of the lessons building a cohesive education on how to watch birds. Walking through the calendar year (which is essential given how much bird behavior and location depends on season), he builds up birding skills, including spotting; sighting; recognizing calls; understanding migration and breeding and ecology; population dynamics; and that bane of the amateur, taxonomy. He also delves into the modern world of eBird (a global birding app that combines list making, citizen science, and a bird location library), sound libraries, and other revolutionary Internet-based tools. Floyd is a witty raconteur and a precise educator. I’m a middling birder who reads lots of “how to do better” books and I can say that “How to Know the Birds” is my only recent journey of this kind that has markedly deepened my knowledge and skills. But it is not only for birdwatchers. Anyone with a yearning to be something of a naturalist will fall in love with Floyd’s passionate, zesty style.

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