Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

Birds of Peru

June 6, 2010

It’s not easy to write a book review of a birding field guide. One cannot write the wonderful zingers that other book reviewers sometimes get off:

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” (Dorothy Parker)

I did not know that fourteen publishers had turned down this book. If true, it’s the most encouraging thing I have heard about the publishing industry in years.” (A.J. Liebling)

“The poet accepts oblivion; his lessers seek survival.” (Murray Kempton)

“I never read a book before reviewing it – it prejudices a man so.” (Sydney Smith.)

“Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging. . .” (E.B. White)

But one cannot dodge the task  assigned. The Princeton University Press just sent us a review copy of its revised, updated Birds of Peru from its Princeton Field Guide series, so we can hardly decline to review it. That would be rude and birders are never rude.

Besides, the book covers all of Peru’s 1,817 confirmed species. That’s right, 1,817.  Hummingbirds consume forty pages all by themselves. We count 91 species of Tanagers alone. Where else could you expect to find the field markings and range map for the Rufous-Breasted Chat-Tyrant that lives on the ribs of the Andes? Or examine detailed, excellent illustrations of the thirty species of Antwrens that live in Peru. Or learn about the “professional” followers of the Army Ants that swarm on the floor of tropical forests. These birds follow the swarms and dine on the spiders and small vertebrates that flee the ants.

You may not have known that the Stygian Owl’s status in Peru is not clear. It may be rare or local or just “overlooked.” It’s probably easy to overlook birds in the vast Amazonian Basin. It’s full of trees after all. Twenty-nine major rivers drain the Andes in Peru; most end up in the Amazon.

Five authors and five principal illustrators fill the book with orderly information with a range map just to the left of each species and a right-hand page full of truly fine illustrations of each bird. If there is a bird in Peru that can’t be identified using this field guide and a pair of binoculars, I’d like to see it. The news release announcing the publication date (June 2, 2010) claims that this book is “the most complete and authoritative field guide to this diverse, neotropical landscape.” We believe it. If you’ve never looked at any of Princeton’s bird books, you’ll be surprised at the amount of detailed information they all contain.

It is the fashion in short book reviews these days to insert a paragraph toward the end complaining about something. We expect that is to prove that the reviewer actually read the thing. We have such a complaint: This book is 664 pages of print that is too small for eyes over forty years of age to read without reading glasses. I suppose Princeton claims that the print had to be small or the book would have weighed too much for a field guide. (It almost is too heavy as it is.) The authors admit to having jettisoned, “often with great reluctance” much additional information.

Rufous-Breasted Chat-Tyrant

Plus, 1,817 bird species do rather fill up a field guide.

And what a field guide it is. We’ve never been to Peru and haven’t got a trip planned and we’ve spent hours just thumbing through it. The Peruvian Tourist Authority ought to buy several thousand copies to distribute to tourist agencies. If you never wanted to see Peru, you will after spending some time inside the covers of this book. And you can go anytime. According to the book, most Peruvian species live there year-round.

We’re just sorry that it doesn’t lend itself to any book review zingers like Ambrose Bierce’s, “The covers of this book are too far apart.”


The paperback version costs $39.50 and is worth every penny. We’ll be happy to get it for you.

Spatuletail Hummingbird

August 22, 2008
© Roger Ahlman

© Roger Ahlman

One of the rarest of hummingbirds, the Spatuletail lives in Peru, only on the east bank of the Rio Utcubamba, much of which is accessible by car. Wildlife photographer Greg Homel got high definition video of a male Spatuletail in a courting display. Spend a minute watching it. By the way, those are not leaves stuck on his tail; that is his tail.

Then, if you have just a little more time spend a few more minutes at the Peru Birding Routes web site. In turn, that will make you want to spend a few weeks in Peru in order to see the birds which live there.

And, according to the American Bird Conservancy, you can also travel to an accessible hummingbird feeder which is currently frequented by some Spatuletail Hummingbirds. But you shouldn’t wait, the bird is endangered as humans continue to cut down the small area of forest which is its only home.


We found the photo of the Spatuletail on the home page of Andean Birding another web site that will make you want to leave for Peru as soon as you pack your gear.

Aplomado Falcons, Part I – Meeting a Raven

November 15, 2007

Aplomado Falcons are rare birds. So rare, in fact, that no one really knows how many exist. Their historic range extended from casual visits to Tierra del Fuego north to northern Mexico and southern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Fossils of their Pleistocene predecessors have been found in what is now called Ecuador and Peru. No one even knows how many lived the United States. We do know that by the early 1960s none were residents in the United States. A vicious combination of DDT and elimination of the native grasslands had eradicated them. Some survived in northern Mexico but very few. aplomado-bosque-nov-2007-1.jpg

A breeding program begun in 1977 has released about 500 Aplomados in Northern Mexico and southern Texas and southern New Mexico. The remaining natural grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert are natural habitat for them. One of the many good things Ted Turner has done with his life is make available one of his New Mexico ranches for a release program. This ranch is just south of the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico and at least one of the falcons has made its way there. We saw it day before yesterday and here are photos. It is a juvenile and it was making the acquaintance of a raven. Given the intelligence of Ravens, we wondered if the Raven knew how rare Aplomados are and just wanted to look at one “up close and personal.” We’re sorry the birds are so small in the photo but they were a long way away and the adapter which fits the camera to our spotting scope was even further so this is the best we got. We’ll return again soon and try again, hopefully before this bird grows out of its juvenile coloring.


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