Life of the Flycatcher (Animal Natural History Series)

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9780806129495: Life of the Flycatcher (Animal Natural History Series)

The American flycatcher is the subject of this enchanting book by a renowned ornithologist, who draws upon personal observations and extensive research to portray this family over its vast range. 16 color plates. 32 drawings.

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Review:

The flycatchers are the largest family of birds in the Western Hemisphere, and that passerine ("sparrowlike") family takes in a great variety of species, some 380 in all. Often called tyrants in the older literature, flycatchers, noted ornithologist Alexander Skutch argues, should more properly be thought of as tyrant chasers, for they are not shy of attacking much larger birds in defense of their nests and offspring. (The designation "tyrant," Skutch believes, comes from a taxonomic confusion by which the eastern flycatcher, the first known to European scientists, was identified as a shrike--and shrikes, of course, are "notorious for their predatory habits.") Flycatchers, Skutch writes, have even been observed defending the nests of other birds against invading snakes and raptors. Many flycatchers are remarkably beautiful, such as the streamer-tailed flycatcher of central South America and the vermilion flycatcher of Central America and the American Southwest; others are drab. Less cherished among some birdwatchers than their passerine cousins the songbirds, the largely silent flycatchers have a champion in Skutch, whose fine introduction to the family belongs in the complete birder's library. --Gregory McNamee

From Booklist:

The 380 species of flycatchers make it the largest family of birds confined to the Western Hemisphere. The greatest number of the species is found in South America, and 35 species breed in North America. Skutch, an eminent ornithologist living in Costa Rica, begins this informative book with a general discussion of the flycatcher family, offering data on their size, color, feathers, and migration. Succeeding chapters cover such topics as food and foraging, daily life, calls and songs, courtship, nest building, eggs and incubation, young birds and their care, enemies, defense, nesting success, and longevity. This is the third volume in the impressive Animal Natural History series. Sixteen color illustrations and 32 black-and-white drawings by Dana Gardner complement the text. George Cohen

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