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Books about Birds

The books in the “Look West” series are like detailed natural history postcards — the kind of postcards that inspire you to learn a little more about the photographs on the front.

By Charles J. Lohrmann

Even though the phrase “Baby Birds” is not technically correct (these winged youngsters are “fledglings” or “nestlings”) the small volume titled Baby Birds (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 64 pages, $12.95 hardbound) is an engaging book that is ideal for young readers but still relevant for those softhearted adults who adore all young creatures. The text is brief, but includes specifics on range, habitat and general behavior. Baby Birds is one volume in the “Look West” series of titles published by Rio Nuevo and including the books pictured here — Gambel’s Quail and Desert Babies A-Z — as well as a number of others that each focus on one aspect of the American West. Read Gambel’s Quail and you’ll find a general-interest life story of the Gambel’s quail that includes insights into the relationship between quail and indigenous people of centuries past. The book closes with brief descriptions of other members of the quail family. And Desert Babies A–Z is not just snapshots of cute little animals. (The newly hatched scorpions are in no way attractive, but are fascinating) Each entry describes the young creature with enough detail to cover the Spanish name, habitat information and a little general biology. Other titles in the series include Roadrunners, Coyotes, and Javelinas as well as regional history titles like The Navajo Long Walk (describing the Navajo tribal exodus of the mid-19th century), Kokopelli and Navajo Rug Designs. Visit <www.rionuevo.com> to see the entire list. When you’re at the site, take a minute to look at Birds of Prey in the American West, which includes predators from small pygmy owls to huge California condors.

If you’re looking for a birding field guide in Spanish, there’s just one option. Fortunately, it’s a very good one. Given that nearly 30 million birders in North America speak Spanish, it is surprising that there was no comprehensive and easy-to-use field guide en español until last year when Houghton Mifflin published the Kaufman Guia de campo a las aves de Norteamérica (Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America) (Houghton Mifflin, 392 pages, softcover; $18.95 each volume).

This comprehensive guide is pocket-sized, with a pictorial table of contents that helps you categorize the bird and directs you to the color-coded pages where detailed information is available.

All the birds are pictured in digitally enhanced photographs, which combines the detail and accuracy of paintings and the distinctive field marks typical of photographs. Also, digital technology makes it possible to present groups of birds as they might appear in the field or place a flying bird next to a photograph of the same bird standing on the shore or perched on a limb.

This guidebook receives rave reviews for the quality of the translation. When he was planning the book, Kaufman conducted extensive research in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean, before enlisting translator Patricia Manzano Fischer, an active conservationist trained as an ornithologist, to complete the project.

Another challenging component of the guidebook is translation for the descriptive terms for the voices of birds. For that task, Kaufman selected Hector Gomez de Silva, a respected Mexican ornithologist, who composed completely new Spanish voice descriptions for the birds.

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