Latin For Bird Lovers By Roger J Lederer & Carol Burr| Timber Press | Hardback | May 2014 | 224 Pages | Colour & Monochrome Illustrations | ISBN: 9781604695465

The Publisher’s View: Latin for Bird Lovers is an accessible, informative, and beautifully illustrated guide to the mysteries of ornithological Latin. It reveals the meaning, origin, and pronunciation of Latin binomials, helping readers to get to grips with the highly useful information that these names contain, and also to communicate more effectively with other birders. Latin for Bird Lovers features ‘Bird Profile’ pages, which look in depth at specific genera. Its ‘Great Ornithologist’ spreads reveal the fascinating stories of the men and women who found and named many of the birds we love; its “Latin in Action” feature boxes provide tips that will help readers apply the lore of Latin names to their own birding.

The Author: Roger Lederer is an emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences at California State University, Chico. His expertise is ecology and ornithology, and he has published over thirty scientific research papers and six books. He has been consulted by many organisations and individuals, including the BBC and National Geographic.

Carol Burr has a PhD in 19th Century British Literature and taught the subject at California state University, Chico, for 37 years. She has authored articles and edited books on women writers. Most recently she illustrated a local bird guide The Birds of Bidwell Park with husband Dr. Roger Lederer.

Fatbirder View: Of course the first thing that needs pointing out is the ‘Latin for Bird Lovers’ really ought to be called ‘Latin & Greek for Bird Lovers’ as many scientific names contain as much Ancient Greek as they do Latin. That notwithstanding most birders will find much of interest in the book including the pages about great ornithologists scattered through the book. It is very nicely illustrated too making it more than a reference book, it is at times entertaining as well as informative. Here and there one also finds explanations for scientific terms used in ornithology that are unrelated to bird names such, for example, ‘pelagic’.

However, its hard to see where this fits into the literature on bird names. ‘Whose Bird’ is mentioned in the bibliography and was no doubt used as one of the sources of explanations for latinized proper names such as those of many ornithologists commemorated in bird names. Jobling’s Dictionary of Scientific Bird names also gets a mention and must have been a primary source too. I am never one to disparage or discourage writing about birds and particularly nomenclature but the ground does seem well covered. Maybe the intention was to given an easy entry level to the subject but as a reference surely one would first go to Jobling and then, to find out more about an eponym one would turn to the forthcoming ‘Eponym Dictionary of Birds’ the in-depth and virtually comprehensive follow up to ‘Whose Bird’. Between the two explanations should be fulsome enough.

Nevertheless, I wish this volume luck and it will no doubt soon be found on the shelves of a lot of young or novice birders as the first step toward even weightier tomes on the subject matter.


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