Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior Vol. 1 by Donald Stokes
to Bird Behavior Vol. 1 by Donald
Stokes. Boston. Little, Brown and Company. 1979. 336pp. ISBN: 0-316-81725-2
Behavior is what real naturalists want to
understand in the animals they are studying. Having the resources to go to
Costa Rica or the Galapagos in order to witness a bird found nowhere else is
more a field for dilettantes. Knowing the behaviors of a few birds is far more
interesting than having a blurred photo of some exotic Amazonian bird to show
off to friends.
Lyandra Haupt in her book about backyard
birds makes this point well. Having the largest “Life” bird list is a little
like collecting the most baseball cards every summer. This notion of
understanding behaviors makes a volume like this one particularly interesting
to this bird watcher.
It begins with an overview of key things to look
for when out in the field and then focuses on 25 wild birds, all of which can be
found along the Atlantic sea board (as well as other places). This was slightly
disappointing for my familiarity with these species. Having crossed the nation
to re-locate in the Pacific Northwest, there are many new species to get to
know and these were not listed in this book. Hopefully when volumes #2 and #3
are found, many of them will be highlighted.
It would be vain and untrue to indicate that
the details that Stokes provided in this guide were already known to me. An
interest in corvids, a profundity of house sparrows or Canada geese have always
made observing them easier. A focused interest in actual behavior also points
me towards knowing all my birds better. Stokes’ guide makes that easier.
It is a well-constructed manual meaning that
it is both informative and a fluid read. From my own experience both in the
field and in reading the literature there was nothing that I could argue with
in this presentation.
Yet there is an issue with the age of the
volume that I read. It is the 1979 version of the guide. The book is in very
good condition suggesting that my copy is not old. In turn this suggests that
it has not been updated unless very recently. A book about avian behavior that
is 39 years old means that much of the information needs to be refreshed. In the
chapter on the American crow for instance, Stokes indicates that there is much
we do not know about some of their behaviors. While this is technically accurate,
there has been countless articles and books written about crows. There are
information sharing internet sites as well. There is always much more to learn
but when this book was published there was far less known than today.
At any rate, I found this to be a useful tool
and look forward to reading the ensuing volumes.