Birdpedia: A Brief Compendium of Avian Lore

Princeton Univ. Jun. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780691209661. $16.95. REF
Leahy, a principal naturalist at the venerable Massachusetts Audubon Society, is also the author of the excellent Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife, a reference work boasting 1,472 alphabetical entries. His latest title is largely derivative of The Birdwatcher’s Companion, with 102 such entries, but 19 entries are new and many others have been updated and revised. This is a handy, inexpensive little book, very suitable for public and academic libraries. Leahy’s well-informed writing is a pleasure to read and often witty. Entries range from simple definitions (Bergmann’s rule, ornithichnite) to extended essays of several pages on general themes such as flight, bill, fiction, migration, song, and poetry, and also include biographical sketches and Old World–related phenomena (Shakespeare’s birds, Edward Lear). The book also explores contemporary issues such as “Birding While Black” and climate change.
VERDICT Leahy’s breadth of knowledge is impressive, and he expresses it beautifully, allowing readers to easily absorb his many salient points. Most highly recommended for all libraries serving young adults and older, and for all academic libraries, especially those that don’t already have The Birdwatcher’s Companion.
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