Book Recollection: 51 Birding Tips

Good Birders Don't Wear White - Lisa WhiteTurns out February was a very good month for getting through my reading queue. This is the first of no less than 4 books that had all their pages perused and turned. Granted one of these books was for pleasure only – a rarity since I like to try and get something out of my time spent with an author. One of the books covered war photography and the other two had a bird theme. We’ll get to the other three books soon enough, but let’s start with one of the bird related ones. Today’s featured recollection is about a book entitled Good Birders Don’t Wear White with a subtitle of 50 Tips from North America’s Top Birders. This sounded intriguing when it came up on an Amazon search for something else I was looking for. Ended up adding it to my wish list which Linda used for a birthday gift. Unfortunately, she purchased two of them accidentally thanks to a shopping cart snafu. Rather than bother with returning it, my brother Ron ended up getting some extra reading material. There were big expectations now that it essentially cost us double – Ron, don’t read this review if you had your heart set on reading it.

The format of the book is a series of magazine like articles from a number of well known birders (and a bunch of others I probably should know based on their bios at the end of each article). Each author is given 4 to 7 pages or so to bestow pearls of birding wisdom on the reader. The book is actually very short so each is a quick read which worked out perfectly for my pre-sleep reading material. Take in a few different authors and hit the lights to be ready for the next day’s grind.
Edited by Lisa White. It didn’t take long to get through the 261 pages – each tip is a fairly easy read but the real speed element was a result of content – felt like I was rushing through it to actually get a tip that wasn’t obvious or trivial. As far as 50 tips go, it should have been titled 4 good tips buried in a sea of words. Maybe I’ve just been birding too long and the experiences and knowledge has built up more than I thought – would be interesting to see how a new person to the birding world would take to this advice. As noted, there were a few good nuggets like recommending you buy a Duck Stamp to help out conservation efforts, pishing to draw birds out of brush and confirmation that talking to people about birding is a good thing (take that Linda!). However, these are countered with a multitude of tips ranging from the absurd (cranking bird songs through your car stereo) to the insane (recommending I sketch a bird in the field when I have a perfectly good camera with me). In summary, I will add a 51st tip – if you have spare time to read a book related to birding, spend that valuable time with another product – something like Arthur Morris’ book reviewed last time (link here).

You can see some of the takeaways for this book below after the jump, but all in all, this was a disappointment.


  • Mike O’Conner wrote a book called Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches: and Other Answers to Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask – thinking that is likely a much more informative read – will have to check it out
  • Sheri Williams recommends neutral colors that match with the environment to improve everyone’s birding experience – had to read 37 pages in to get the same information as the title of the book
  • Kenn Kaufman informed us that the internet isn’t a reliable source based on his informal survey that determined nearly all the bird information there is incorrect or incomplete – Holy crap, I hope he didn’t read my explanation of how the Ibis got its name. On a side note, Hummingbirds mate in the air upside down while flying backwards.
  • Jeffrey Gordon let the cat out of the bag – there is no Santa Claus. Since we all know that Santa is real and uses a sleigh powered by Killdeer it is easy to expand Kaufman’s findings to include things you read in books
  • Jeffrey’s big reveal is the name of the bird will not tell you what it looks like – somewhere a Red-Headed Woodpecker just said WTF. Oh, and for the record, the URL they have for him in the book – is dead (there is a though)
  • Jessie Barry’s tip is to sketch the bird in the field. Good luck at getting a Wren to stand still long enough to draw it. I’ll stick with my trusty camera
  • Don and Lillian Stokes mentioned that Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to find Mangrove Cuckoos. They actually had some funny tips on how to locate this bird – one being never say its name and another being take someone that has never heard of one instead of someone who has unsuccessfully tried for years (the latter likely being cursed) – in case you are wondering, these are the authors for my Stokes Field Guide which I really like.
  • Oh sure, Dave Jasper comes back and recommends wearing white to draw waterfowl in closer.
  • Kevin Karlson references “jizz” as a key birding tip – just going to leave that right there but he might want to look up the Urban Dictionary for that before using it again, Kevin is the coauthor of The Shorebird Guide
  • Pelagic birding – going on boating trips for the day – one word Puffins (a sore topic brought on by a Maine trip and my wife
  • Apparently I need to check out Ted Floyd’s Birding publication
  • Scott Shalaway distinguishes between birders and bird watchers with the latter being a casual backyard watcher verses someone who is obsessed enough to plan vacations around watching birds – officially puts me in the birder category
  • Scott has a rule before counting a +1 he has to see it well enough to identify it by sight. I go a few steps further requiring a photograph clear enough to identify and a posting on this blog
  • John Sill set a goal of 400 birds on his list before considering himself credible – needless to say I am nowhere close to credible
  • Noah Strycker recommends you crank up the iPod and lure birds with audio clips of their songs (including cranking it from your car stereo) – surprised me with this one
  • Multiple people recommending “pishing” to draw birds out from cover – will have to try this next time in the field
  • Mel White provides an etiquette tip for not belittling other people’s cherished finds.
  • Wayne Petersen recommends never asking someone else what their bird count list total. I can see how this might draw a competitive air in the conversation, but hell, mine is out on our gallery for all to see (a constant reminder of how far I am behind my brother Ron). He does believe in birding generosity which I wholeheartedly agree with. I need to show my wife his comment on not being ashamed of being a birder and feel free to engage in public discussion – she is always making fun of me for giving little tidbits and facts to others found on birding outings. What seems like a common theme, the URL he provides for the American Birding Association’s Principles of Birding Ethics redirects to a 404
  • Jeffrey Bouton recommends hitting Padre Island in late April and early May – must say early Jan is quite nice as well.
  • Paul Baicich points out that having a cat kills birds because they are natural born killers – note to Ron
  • A number of people recommended purchasing a migratory bird stamp (Duck Stamp) even if you do not hunt since proceeds are used for conservation areas – good idea, might just do that – and Scott Weidensaul says it will get you in free to any refuge that charges an admission fee – interesting
  • Arthur Morris contributed to the tips – may remember him from my last book report
  • Richard Crossley asks that all too common question – are you birder or are you a photographer – I always respond with “Yes”. Recommends leaving your tripod at home which I do, but you can ask Ron or Linda, I go NOWHERE without the big glass of the Beast
  • John Acorn believes good birders sit and wait for birds to come to them – I say that makes for a fat birder


2 thoughts on “Book Recollection: 51 Birding Tips”

  1. Sigh, cats are not bird killers–it’s just that birds are too trusting of others, naive really, and what’s a cat to do?

    Thanks for the review–I’ll probably flip through the book, but now I know it will be a fast read. I had heard about not wearing white–in fact, that you can wear any color at all except white–from other birders. My own theory is that the brighteners in washing machine detergents (at one time, phosphorus, which was great) cause whites to glow in the UV just like under blacklights, and birds can see in the ultraviolet and this freaks them out. But I don’t know.

    I thought I had a Mangrove Cuckoo in Fort Myers a year ago, but it turned out when processing the pictures to be a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Nothing to sneeze at, but I have gotten pics of those up here where there are no mangroves.

    I’ve been meaning to buy a Duck Stamp. Apparently, it is not really a stamp as I pictured…

    Birds do not come to people, you have to seek them out. Look for YouTube videos on pishing to see exactly how it sounds (OK, like “pish”). I try it sometimes–it may help, I’m not sure, mostly it doesn’t and I feel like an idiot.

    Thanks for taking the time to review this book! Based on this, I’m going to pull my car up to the next birding field trip in my area, open my windows, pop one of my Stokes bird song CDs in my car stereo, and crank it up to 11. Then I’ll swagger out of the car dressed like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and start insulting the women and men and birds. “Oh, this your wife, huh? A lovely lady. Hey baby, you must’ve been something before Audubon.” All because I read your review.



  2. I think your comment might actually be longer than my post – thnx! I just surveyed 100 birds and 99-1 said cats are killers and need to be forcibly removed from all homes. Pretty sure that other one was just a cat in a bird disguise. Interesting enough, it appears the birds around here have to be more worried about Cooper’s Hawks. Last week I watched one fly into my backyard and land on a branch about 75 feet from my feeders. I grabbed the camera because it had the makings of some good shots. It flew into a clump a trees closer to the feeders and that is when I lost it. Thinking it was gone, I gave up and went back to my original task. About 30 minutes later I see that Cooper go dive bombing right through the feeders grasping at whatever it could get close to – it would have been successful, but two Crows were sitting off to the side and got spooked – the little birds scattered, but both Crows took out after the Cooper causing it to redirect away.

    Interesting perspective on the white shirts and phosphorous. Never thought of that before.

    Sorry to hear about the Mangrove (wink) – best of luck next time – meanwhile it might be time for a trip down there myself hehehe.

    I though you might think that stereo tip was a bit rude – however, now I am going to think of Caddyshack every time I go birding with you. Oh, and DO NOT mention you got that idea from reading MY review. Interesting note, I was talking to someone this week that had no idea what the reference was regarding going to 11 – my age none the less – I was stunned.

    Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment – appreciate it.


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