A couple of years ago, I was teaching a class on urban bird conservation at the University of Texas, when I learned that Laura Erickson, who I knew from the Conservationthrougbirding listserv, was writing a book entitled 101 Ways to Help Birds. She shared her 101 ideas with me, and I shared them with my class. I commented on a couple chapter drafts, and have been anxiously awaiting the book in print.
When I finally got the book, I was thrilled. It was everything I had hoped it would be...and more.
Before commenting on the content, let me just say that this is one of the most attractive books I've seen in a long time. I love the greens on the cover (great job, Wendy Reynolds), the stippled illustrations by Roger Hall, the sturdy off-white pages, clear typefont, and simple but very functional layout. In the days of cheap printing and maybe too-easy publishing, this book is everything a book should be and a joy to hold in the hand.
The layout of the book follows the premise of its title, providing 101 suggestions on ways to help birds, broken into 5 parts: helping birds at home, enhancing the natural habitat of your backyard, supplementing backyard habitat, helping birds away from home, and helping birds on a larger scale. These parts are further categorized into 22 sections that cover a wide range of topics from bird feeding and avoiding hitting birds in your car to green consumer tips. Each of the 101 ways to help birds is written clearly and concisely, with specific recommendations on how to help the birds. Each of the ways is backed up with the facts and figures needed to inform the reader of the nature of the threat faced by birds, as well as the best ways to address those threats.
If this book were just a collection of ideas on how to help birds, it would be well worth the cover price of $19.95. But happily, Laura Erickson draws upon her own experiences as a bird rehabilitator and educator to provide personal examples related to many of her tips. These range from the joys of providing food for a wintering Rufous Hummingbird--mealworms mixed in a blender with sugar water, to the heartbreak of dealing with songbirds injured by housecats. The authors experiences and gentle tone make this an easy read, and turns what could easily become a depressing subject (the numerous threats faced by birds) into a hopeful agenda for people wanting to do the right thing for their feathered neighbors.
There are a lot of great bird books out there right now, but this one isn't to be missed. Besides serving as a handbook of how to help birds, it could also serve as great gift for a neighbor, or better yet, a local political leader or civic official. The attractive cover and layout will ensure that the book is picked up, and the great information and delivery will ensure that it is actually read and frequently referred to as you and your neighbors take effective measures to help the birds.