Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City

By Leslie Day | Illustrated by Trudy Smoke & Beth Bergman | Johns Hopkins University Press | Paperback | August 2015 | 384 Pages | 61 plates with colour photos; 354 colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781421416182

The Publisher’s View: Look around New York, and you’ll probably see birds: wood ducks swimming in Queens, a stalking black-crowned night-heron in Brooklyn, great horned owls perching in the Bronx, warblers feeding in Central Park, or Staten Island’s purple martins flying to and fro. You might spot hawks and falcons nesting on skyscrapers or robins belting out songs from trees along the street.

America’s largest metropolis teems with birdlife in part because it sits within the great Atlantic flyway where migratory birds travel seasonally between north and south. The Big Apple’s miles of coastline, magnificent parks, and millions of trees attract dozens of migrating species every year and are also home year-round to scores of resident birds.

There is no better way to identify and learn about New York’s birds than with this comprehensive field guide from New York City naturalist Leslie Day. Her book will quickly teach you what each species looks like, where they build their nests, what they eat, the sounds of their songs, what time of year they appear in the city, the shapes and colors of their eggs, and where in the five boroughs you can find them – which is often in the neighborhood you call home. The hundreds of stunning photographs by Beth Bergman and gorgeous illustrations by Trudy Smoke will help you identify the ninety avian species commonly seen in New York. Once you enter the world of the city’s birds, life in the great metropolis will never look the same.

Other Views:

The Author: Leslie Day is a New York City naturalist and the author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City and Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City, also published by Johns Hopkins. Dr. Day taught environmental science and biology for more than twenty years. Today, she leads nature tours in New York City Parks for the New York Historical Society, the High Line Park, Fort Tryon Park Trust, Riverside Park Conservancy, and New York City Audubon.

Trudy Smoke is a professor of linguistics and rhetoric at Hunter College, City University of New York and a nature illustrator. She is the illustrator of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City.

Beth Bergman is a photographer for the Metropolitan Opera who moonlights as a nature photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Opera News, and Paris Match.

Fatbirder View: I am sure that were I a Newyorker with an interest in wildlife, or a novice NY birder I’d want to own this book and I guess that is exactly who it is aimed at.

If I were an established birder I am not so sure it would be for me as I would want one of the many excellent US fieldguides and maybe Sibley’s guide to the eastern birds would be on my shelves already.

Whilst the photos are, for the most part, good they are illustrations and records and not a lot of use for ID. I am afraid I am not fond of the drawn images either as anything other than pleasant decoration for the book as neither they, nor the photos are fieldguide quality. I particularly dislike the egg illustrations, as I fear that this encourages people to peer into nests, which might well evoke abandonment by the parent birds. The brief species accounts are fine but widely available elsewhere.

I would also be frustrated by the layout which is neither fish nor fowl being sort of taxonomic order and sort of not, in that it is not up to date in that respect and mostly uses common US group names. If the intention is also to educate then maybe a section Should be Icterids rather than Blackbirds & Orioles when more accurate terms like ‘Mimids’ are used for other sections.

I think that, were the book re-titled I’d be more enamoured… something like ‘Birds we’ve recorded in New York’ or ‘A New York Birders Diary’ or even ‘Where to watch birds in New York City’. The latter would be most appropriate as a lot of the photos carry captions identifying where the bird was seen.

My opinion is, of course just that and I admire the dedication and hard work put in by all concerned and, no doubt it has its place. Anything that encourages more people to care about wildlife, especially urban dwellers can only be a good thing.

Buy this book from NHBSFatbirder