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book review: 101 ways to help birds


As an ornithologist, I mostly read bird books that are technical or scientific. So I had not read Laura Erickson’s 101 Ways to Help Birds. I ran into Laura at a recent conference, and she gave me a copy. I’m sorry I did not pick this book up sooner, as it is extremely well done, thorough, accurate, practical, and relevant.

I’m a huge fan of books that are well-organized and demonstrate linear thinking. This book is arranged topically in five sections, each with three to six chapters. In turn, these chapters are often broken up with sub-topics or bullet points. In short, it is very easy to find and digest the information, and this is one of the book’s most appealing features.

Although it contains the expected tips such as providing water and how to set up feeding stations, this is no cheesy list of shopworn advice. An example would be her first chapter, “In the Kitchen,” Many bird lovers know that a host of North American migrant birds winter in tropical coffee farms, so choosing shade-grown coffee helps preserve habitat for them (for those who don’t know this, she explains it clearly and well). But fewer people might connect their other eating habits with bird conservation. Her advice regarding ethical food choices offers succinct information on things that include indirect, but no less important, effects on birds such as water depletion, pesticides on animal food crops, and fishing methods that endanger water birds.

There are sections on wide-ranging topics such as managing backyard habitat, preventing disease at feeders (and the signs and symptoms of many illnesses), lawn treatments and their impacts on birds, making chimneys “swift friendly,” and birding ethics.  All the entries are detailed without being overly wordy or officious, and all are accurate and well-researched.

This means that 101 Ways to Help Birds is an excellent resource for bird lovers of all levels, whether a person simply needs to know how to handle a wild bird emergency, wishes to become more proactive helping birds around home, or is interested in volunteer work or political action. I am frequently asked questions that are covered in this book, and it will be great to have it at hand to quickly reference concise answers. I’ll also be recommending it as a great holiday gift. If more people followed even some of the advice presented here, birds — and the environment in general — would be far better off.

You can read more about the book at Laura’s web site. She is diligently compiling additional information, links, resources, and photos on all her topics, which makes this publication dynamic and increases its value. Here’s an example on the shade coffee chapter, complete with new research and some excellent links.

I had never met Laura before running into her at the meeting, and I did not spend enough time with her there to get to know her. But it is clear from this book that she has both solid knowledge and a deep passion for birds and their welfare. As she says, we all have a job to do. Pick up a copy of 101 Ways to Help Birds, roll up your sleeves, and get to work!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jlb October 16, 2006, 8:42 am

    Thank you for the book recommendation – it sounds like just what I need. I have a particular bird-loving friend in mind who would love a copy, and of course I might have to drop one in my basket "from me, to me!"

    It's good to hear the word continuing to spread about the (many) benefits of supporting shade-grown, socially-responsible coffee beans.

  • Roger B. October 16, 2006, 9:53 am

    Sounds like an excellent read.

  • Sandy October 20, 2006, 6:02 pm

    Sounds like an excellent Christmas gift for my husband.

    BTW, I finally did a review of 1491 (it's here).

  • Rob October 26, 2006, 8:00 pm

    Amen. Great book.