Yellowstone’s Birds: Diversity and Abundance in the World’s First National Park

Princeton Univ. Oct. 2023. 304p. ed. by Douglas W. Smith & others. ISBN 9780691217833. $35. NAT HIST
Yellowstone’s “geothermal wonders and charismatic megafauna” take a backseat to the birds in this pioneering, overdue study. It is not a field guide but a report of what is known (and unknown) about the park’s avian life. With multiple contributors, the text’s style is varied and the topics many—ideal for those inclined to explore the book in snippets, to wander, and to wonder. Illustrations, photographs, and links to accompanying videos are superb and ably support the authors’ goal of making their science accessible. The book also describes what fieldwork in remote areas involves and how citizen scientists support the effort. Preliminary chapters discuss Yellowstone’s geology and offer tips on birding etiquette, checklists, descriptions of trails, and likely observations. The birds—peregrine falcons, golden eagles, trumpeter swans, harlequin ducks, ravens, Clark’s nutcrackers, and more remarkable creatures—are considered in terms of life history, conservation status, research projects, and more. Among the book’s many delights are its anecdotal pieces. For example, wildlife biologist-cum-birder Kira Cassidy recounts “The Year I Lost My Birding Mind.”
VERDICT Revelatory. The birds, the park, but also the science behind it make this book an outstanding resource.
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