Birds Near and Far

-posted by library staff

image of AnhingaApril is a fine month to turn our attention to wild birds. With the longer days of springtime, there are more opportunities to hear the joyous songs of our busy local birds. I enjoyed a melodious treat recently on an early evening walk in my neighborhood.

The Central Library boasts a fine collection of books on birds. Hoping to visit Cuba? We have a field guide to the birds of Cuba! I consulted one of our excellent Florida birding books when my dream of visiting the Everglades National Park came true. Along a popular trail, I spotted this magnificent Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) with its extensive white feathering on black wings. Double-crested Cormorant

It was also a thrill to see a handsome Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) with its hooked bill and orange throat patch.

What makes a bird a bird? Feathers, of course – the unique feature that enables flight. All birds have forelimbs modified into wings, although they may not fly. Their hindlimbs are adapted for walking, swimming, or perching. They have beaks and lay eggs. In ecosystems from the Arctic to the Antarctic, birds are found in forests, deserts, mountains, prairies, and on oceans. They number about 10,000 species and range in size from the teensy hummingbird to the ginormous ostrich. About 40% of bird species migrate for reasons that include the search of food, breeding grounds, and favorable weather. The Arctic tern has the farthest yearly migration, flying round trip between the breeding grounds of the Arctic and the wintering sites of the Antarctic.

National Audubon Day is April 26. It celebrates the birth of John James Audubon (1785-1851), the prominent French-American ornithologist and painter. His Birds of America masterpiece, published between 1827 and 1838, depicts 435 life-size birds of North America. In honor of Audubon, Level 7 of the Central Library is hosting a colorful display of works on birds from now until the end of the month. Books, DVDs, and CDs are available for checkout.

cover image for Sibley Birds WestAlso happening this month at the Central Library will be a lecture by the prominent ornithologist and author David Sibley. On April 20, he will be speaking about his newly-revised book Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. It is a compact, comprehensive work that is richly illustrated by the author. There is also a guide to birds of the East. The event will be held in the Level 1 Microsoft Auditorium from 7:00 – 8:30 in the evening. You can read about it here.

To learn more about birds, be sure to consult other resources provided by the Library. Seattle Picks: Birds is a list of recommended works in our collection. We offer the outstanding Birds of North America Online database by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Articles on distinguishing characteristics, nests, eggs, behaviors, habitat, distribution, migration, and conservation are given for over 700 species. Also provided is a multimedia gallery with recordings of vocalizations and videos. The entry for the American Robin offers a charming video of this songbird tugging at a worm.

A great source of information about field trips, bird walks, and other activities is Seattle Audubon. It sponsors BirdWeb, a database of Washington State birds. Information can be searched by species names, taxonomic groupings, endangered status, birding sites, and practical facts for local birders.

Audubon Videoguide to 505 birds of North America cover imageAudubon VideoGuide to 505 Birds of North America on Two DVDs
Video footage, photographs, vocalizations, range maps, and narration are presented in a user-friendly format. A printed guide of the species is provided.


Bird Songs of the Pacific Northwest cover imageBird Songs of the Pacific Northwest by Geoffrey A. Keller
This 5-CD set by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology features the songs and calls of over 300 bird species in this region. Included is a handy booklet describing vocalizations.


In The Company of Crows and Ravens cover image In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff
The author, a professor wildlife science at the University of Washington, has conducted extensive research on these intelligent, highly successful birds. He describes how the interaction of crows and humans has led to a “cultural coevolution.”


John James Audubon The Making of an American cover imageJohn James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes
A Pulitzer Prize-winning author presents the complex, fascinating biography of John James Audubon. Starting with his arrival in America from France in 1803, he overcame many adversities in his quest to paint birds in their natural habitats.

March of the Penguins cover imageMarch of the Penguins
This DVD presents a stunning, Academy Award-winning documentary. Emperor penguins undertake a yearly migration to their breeding grounds in the harsh conditions of the Antarctic. Walking hundreds of miles in a single file, the march is a testament to their instinct for survival.

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