Thursday, November 20, 2014

The birder's Bible: A review of the Peterson Field Guide

A lot of birders (including me) are prone to obsess over a field guide that a lot of people will call "the birder's Bible." And I can see why birders would call it that: It's as close to modern field guide perfection as you can get.

"Wait," you proclaim suddenly, annoyingly interrupting my monologuing. "Who the heck is that Peter Tory Rogerson guy?" First of all, its Roger Tory Peterson. Second of all, if you know anything about birding history, you know that Peterson was the founder of the modern field guide - pretty important, when you think about it. I mean, without him, the bird guide's evolution would've happened a whole lot slower! But I'll monologue about that later, and in a different post. First and foremost, this post is here to tell you why I (and so many other birders) choose the Peterson.

Probably the most prominent thing you'll find when you open the book to any page is that almost all of the birds on that page, or plate, are in the exact same position. Why aren't they in their natural positions, you ask? It's because even though Peterson painted birds the way he saw them, he took those drawings and made them pose the same way so that you could compare the birds more easily! Isn't it hard when you look in a bird book and almost every page only has one or two species on it? That makes it really hard to compare species, especially warblers. Roger Peterson took a totally different approach. Instead of doing the above said, he put a lot of related species on the same page so comparing would be made much easier. And, since a lot of the fall warblers look the same, he even made a few pages that compare fall warblers! Wasn't that nice of him?

Another thing most people will agree with me on is that the page layout is awesome: On every page, it's descriptions on the left and paintings on the right. None of this hey-let's-fit-literally-everything-about-this-species-on-the-same-page stuff. I hate that. But the Peterson nails it (unsurprisingly).

The descriptions on the left page are pretty good,too. Not too long, but not too brief, either. The order goes like this: First, the most prominent feature of the bird, then a visual description. Maybe a short note about behavior. He describes the voice with unintentionally silly-sounding pronunciations, like the white-breasted nuthatch's call: "Song a rapid series of slow, nasal, whistled notes on one pitch: whi, whi, whi, whi, whi, whi or who, who, who, etc." Then he notes some similar species (if there are any) and the habitat which the bird if found in most often. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. It fits into a 7-10 short-sentenced paragraph.

One of the most useful features I find in it is the life list. Here's a tip for (birding) life: Always keep a life list. A life list is simply all the birds you've seen and/or heard in your life. The Peterson comes fully equipped with a list of birds in the book (and some not found in it, too) There's a space next to each species where you can put a check mark.

The only non-positive things I have to say about it are that the golden lettering on the cover seems to wear off easily, and if you're an avid birder like me, the cover starts to rip at the edges. Instead of letting that happen and ending up with a faceless, ugly field guide that looks like it's from the eighties or it was given to a baby, reenforce the binding with some tape. Not a lot, though. I used it on mine and it hasn't fallen apart yet.

So I have a challenge: If you can find a bird guide that's better in any way, comment (if you can even find one). 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So you want a pet bird...

Pet birds can be a great source if joy, but can also teach you to be responsible, especially if you're a kid. I'll assume you want  parakeet, also known as the Budgerigar. Birds need to be maintained - well fed, fresh water and new newspaper. Daily. But before we get into that, you need the supplies. What are they?
  1. Bird cage - you bird's cage should be at least two times taller and two and a half times wider then the bird itself, to give him/her some room to fly around.
  2. Food - Do you know what type of food to get your bird? PetSmart and Petco both have a wide variety!
  3. Water - Spring and purified are the best, because there's no chlorine. The chlorine in your tap water can severely shorten your bird's life.
  4. Newspaper - Any newspaper will do good. Its a lot easier to have newspaper in the bottom tray than a handfull of bedding. Bedding is expensive, anyway!
  5. Toys - Birds get really bored really easily, so having a couple toys is good. Nothing fancy, but a chew toy and a bell or mirror would do it. If you like to have them out, then maybe consider a play gym.
  6. (Maybe) another bird - It takes double the maintenance, but having another bird is really fun. They might like each other! Plus, if you have a male and a female, then they might mate and you'd have a bunch of budgies then!
If you're just a kid and you're reading this because you want a pet bird, you probably have no idea what you're getting yourself into. But if you get help from Mom and Dad, that's definitely a huge weight off your shoulders. And for parents: I know you think birds are messy, but they make a lot of cute noises, they look nice, and most birds (especially parakeets) are really easily tamed! I know because I have one of my own. It makes kids really happy to have such a cute little animal perched atop their shoulder.

Now that you've read this (I'll assume you didn't just skim over the negative parts), you probably want one. If Mom and Dad are okay, then get out there and choose one!


Wait, wait, wait! I forgot the most important part of buying a bird: Choose wisely. At places like PetSmart, you only have a fourteen day money back guarantee. Choose the youngest male, as they're the easiest to train and handle. And when you get him home, leave him alone. A lot of kids reach right in there after they bought them. The new little guy will be really stressed, so after a week approach the cage slowly, and just stick your hand in there until he relaxes. then you can get him out. Even after that, he'll be freaked out. He'll fly, so if they give yo an option to clip his wings at the pet store, go for it.

Have fun with your new pet!