[Tweeters] New State Bird Book - Montana - recommended

David Hutchinson florafaunabooks at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 26 15:01:35 PDT 2016

It used to be that every state (or province) had to have its own dedicated bird book. They could be in several volumes and packed with wonderful color illustrations (by Fuertes, Allan Brooks, F.L. Jacques) and hence heavily collected. They had an imperial feel to them. Eventually just about all states had there own guide.

There were also a few states that had books with more of a birding exploration focus. I remember when I first came to Seattle there were these wonderful books by Herbert Brandt about birding in Alaska, Arizona and Texas that got me excited in the long winter evenings. In recent decades there have been some wonderful books such as the Birds of BC (4 vols) & Birds of Massachussetts. But the trend as knowledge grows has been state books which are either breeding bird atlases or status & distribution type books.(Washington has both for example).

So the brand new: J.S.Marks, Paul Hendricks, Daniel Casey, 2016, Arrington VA & sponsored by Montana Audubon has ended up being a bit of all three - illus state book, atlas & status. It also contains quite a lot of ornithology in the species accounts which I like a lot. The book is quarto in size quite hefty with 350+ pages. Being my usual critical self I I have to say I do not like the thin coated paper stock which does not make the text, maps & b&w illus look as crisp as they might. A better paper stock might have allowed for more color photos. Perhaps paper costs were an issue and perhaps they made an effort to have work done in the U.S.

Having said that, the colored range maps are simple and clear, while the line drawings of many birds are attractive (Albert Earl Gilbert/ Shawneen Finnegan). There is a simple index, a great bibliography and banding recoveries. Montana is close to us in Washington, but has the makings of several quite different avifauna which are exciting & fresh. The species accounts allow for a historical view while including the latest "splits" and conservation status - something of which we could use more. I did not know that Rusty Blackbird was declining. I was astonished to see that Cassin's Kingbird occurs in Montana and I did not know about the breeding strategy of the Mountain Plover. This book also mentions the sightings of Andy Stepniewski - what could be better? Cordillaran Flycatcher is discussed as well as Pacific & Winter Wren

So despite my usual quibbles about production and price ($60) I really enjoyed this book and recommend you buying it if you can. It reminded me of my visit to a site near Missoula, where Mountain Plovers crept through the stony short grass prairie to the sound of McCown's Longspurs and nearby Bobolinks.

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