Bird Reading

A New Dictionary of Birds

edited by A. Landsborough Thomson
McGraw-Hill, 928 pp., $17.50

The World of Birds

by James Fisher and Roger Tory Peterson
Doubleday, 288 pp., $22.95

The Birds of Arizona

by Allan Phillips and Joe Marshall and Gale Monson, illustrated by George Miksch Sutton, with photographs in color by Eliot Porter
University of Arizona, 212 pp., $15.00

Birds of Prey of the World

by Mary Louise Grossman and John Hamlet, with photographs by Shelly Grossman
Clarkson N. Potter, 496 pp., $25.00

The Bird Watcher's America

edited by Olin Sewall Pettingill Jr., illustrated by John Henry Dick
McGraw-Hill, 441 pp., $7.50

Ornithology today in its many branches is a very popular science on both sides of the Atlantic and the result has been a spate of books ranging from large regional works of twelve-volume length to specialized single books such as A New Dictionary of Birds and of many less important volumes. The five books reviewed here may be taken as a fair sample of what 1964-65 has seen issued.

Of the several books to be noticed in this article, A New Dictionary of Birds must take pride of place, not only for the excellence of its production and contents, but by reason of the distinguished authors who have contributed to its pages. A British conception, and in the main a product of British ornithologists to mark the centenary of the British Ornithologists’ Union, it is a work full worthy of the occasion. In the space at my disposal it is impossible to do more than touch on the fringe of its contents. It is close on seventy years since the publication of its prototype—Alfred Newton’s classic work A Dictionary of Birds—but in that space of time the science of ornithology has passed through a period of drastic change. The New Dictionary is nothing if not up to date and within its 928 pages we are introduced to a great deal which has taken place in this age of scientific progress. It is copiously illustrated. The classification in this work follows the Check-list of Birds of the World by the late J. J. L. Peters based on the system proposed by Dr. Alexander Wetmore of the Smithsonian. The arrangement is alphabetical, with abundant cross-references. Sir Landsborough Thomson in his Introduction states that the book is planned for the general reader who wishes to extend his knowledge of birds; for the ornithologist who requires information outside his individual field, and the biologist who wishes to draw upon specialized subject matter. To this end the leading ornithologists in Britain were invited to contribute articles on particular species, groups or subjects upon which they are acknowledged authorities. The articles on general subjects are by authors in the United Kingdom, while those on bird groups are by authors spread throughout the world. There are contributions from 172 specialists drawn from every continent and from twenty-two countries. In this distinguished list American ornithologists occupy a prominent place. Subjects having a bearing on ornithology, such, for instance, as climatology, meteorology, animal population, conservation, and so on, are discussed by specialists in those subjects in relation to birds, the whole skillfully welded together by the editor, who himself has written many of the principal articles. The knowledge contained within the text of the New Dictionary is well nigh inexhaustible. A word must be said regarding the many illustrations. There are sixteen plates in color by living artists, British and Australian, but with this restriction it can by no means represent all the best bird portraiture of the United Kingdom. Two outstanding British bird artists, the late Archibald Thorburn…

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