Familiar Garden Birds of America
by Henry Hill Collins Jr., by Ned R. Boyajian
Harper & Row, 309 pp., $7.95
American Bird Decoys
by William J. MacKey Jr.
Dutton, 256 pp., $10.00
The Silent Sky
by Alan W. Eckert
Little, Brown, 243 pp., $4.95
It is always sad to have to review a book when the author has not lived to see the results of his devoted work in print. Such was the case in this instance. Mr. Collins died before Familiar Garden Birds of America was completed and it would seem that his companion, the President of the Linnaean Society of New York, has completed the text, although this might have been more clearly stated in the Publishers’ Note.
It is surprising to read that a book of this nature has not appeared before, but the idea is a sound one—to offer the life histories of more than seventy species which constitute America’s most familiar birds common to American gardens—always a matter of individual choice. None of the essays are long but much information has been crammed into the available space. Each account ends with the briefest possible description of the subject, incubation and fledgling period and size of eggs. There is no description of egg coloring, which seems unfortunate. Perhaps the authors were afraid of becoming too greatly involved in a subject where so much variation takes place, but it is usually possible to give some indication of what the eggs are like. Young people in particular are apt to start their love of natural history as egg collectors—or so it certainly was in Britain until the collecting of eggs was frowned upon by our law makers, perhaps rather too severely.
Mr. Collins’s volume is convenient to handle and is not heavy—a great fault of many bird books. It is printed in good-sized type and pleasantly written. The black-and-white illustrations by Nina Williams are very charming and one wishes there were more of them. There are twelve plates in color on which a great many species are depicted and, while not on a par with the work of some better-known artists, these plates have a charm of their own and are fully adequate for their purpose, both decorative and explanatory. Some in fact have a Japanese-print effect which is very pleasing. Plates X and XI may be specified, and while the birds are very flat, the composition of the pictures is good. As an aid to identification these plates are excellent.
I can think of no better Christmas gift for a boy or girl interested in knowing more about the birds of their garden. One can wish it the success which Mr. Collins must have dreamed of, and express sorrow that he has passed away before his wish was realized, as it will surely be.
Bird decoys are a most unusual subject for a book, but it is all the more welcome in consequence, and an eye-opener to anyone who has not previously studied the subject. We have nothing to compare with it in Britain, nor, so far as I am aware, has the subject been dealt with in such detail in any other country but the United States.
Mr. Mackey is an acknowledged authority on …