Book Review: Common Birds Of Washington & Oregon

Common Birds of Washington And Oregon, by J. Duane Sept

Admittedly, this was not a book I had planned on reading.  As it happens, when I traveled to the Oregon coast south of Tillamook, I found myself in a rented house by the Sand Lake Delta, as one of my helpful companions continually mentioned surrounded by beautiful bird-watching territory.  It was immediately wondered whether this house had any guides to bird-watching, and it turned out it had.  As someone who enjoys birds [1], I looked at this book and thought it would be short as well as useful in encouraging me to identify the birds of the Pacific Northwest, seeing as most of my experience in bird-watching came through my life in rural Florida, and seeing as I have seen birds I could not identify in the rural areas of Oregon where I spend a considerable amount of time.  And although I did not find this book to be without flaws, I did find it to meet my expectations and beyond, and so I am pleased to have found this little book and can fondly recommend it to bird-watchers of the area, of which I know at least a few such people.

In terms of its contents, this book begins with a quick photo guide to the various bird groups, a welcome to birding (what this book calls bird-watching), a note on how to use this book as well as the parts of a bird and how bird-watchers can note the distinguishing features of birds, as well as giving tips and techniques like birdsong and calling and choosing the right equipment for the task.  It so happens that our rented house had a good set of binoculars which suggests that plenty of people engage in the practice of bird-watching here.  Some maps follow, about which I will have more to say later, and there are some notes about attracting birds to the house through food and birdhouses and appropriate gardening before the book goes into its main section of discussing various birds, which takes up the majority of this short (under 100 page) book.  This section discusses the following bird groups:  loons, grebes, cormorants, herons, waterfowl, eagles, hawks and falcons, grouse and allies, rails and cranes, plovers and sandpipers, gulls and terns, diving seabirds, pigeons and doves, owls, nighthawks, hummingbirds, kingfishers, woodpeckers, and perching birds, all to great effect.  After this the book ends with a helpful glossary of terms and some suggestions for further reading along with the customary acknowledgements and index and notes about the author.

I must say that I did enjoy this book, but it was not a perfect one.  The author seems to have a bit too much interest in the supposed evolutionary implications of gender bimorphism in bird coloration, as well as the breeding habits of birds.  Perhaps the most blameworthy aspect of the book, aside from the author’s defective biological worldview, is the fact that he appears to be immensely incompetent in drafting maps, which are comically erroneous in this book in terms of their placement of cities, with an imaginary Portland where Olympia should be in Washington, a Spokane that is more than a hundred miles too far east, and a Salem that is not placed on the Willamette River at all.  Aside from these errors, though, this is a worthwhile book.  It is written by someone who loves birds and happens to know a lot about them, and it is an encouragement for the reader to watch birds, and that is an activity that promotes a great deal of fondness and respect and concern for the well-being of birds and their populations.  Thus this book gets a cautious and partial but no less real recommendation for those who live in the Pacific Northwest and want to look at cute clovers or majestic hawks or many other quirky birds.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: Common Birds Of Washington & Oregon

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Birds Of The Pacific Northwest | Edge Induced Cohesion

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