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Books:Animals and Nature:Animals and Wildlife:National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America


Price: $18.95


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No matter where we live—high-rise or house, arid climate or humid, urban area or country—one creature binds us together like no other: the bird. In North America alone, 60 million people identify themselves as bird-watchers, and most hone their skills right in their own backyards. Now, there's a book for every family who wants to learn more about the birds they love. Chapters cover all aspects of birding in an easy, accessible way. Vivid illustrations of 150 common species make identification a snap. Tips on feeding, birdhouses, and bird-friendly landscapes show how to attract birds to any environment for optimal viewing. Even children can get in on the action with a section devoted to kid-friendly projects and activities. To round out this ultimate one-stop resource, readers will find expert advice on bird songs, birding optics, and bird photography.

  • Softcover
  • 288 pages; 290 color photographs; 150 maps, 500 illustrations
  • 5 3/8" x 8 1/4"
  • © 2011

Jonathan Alderfer is a nationally known bird artist and author who has worked on a number of National Geographic's birding books. His previous titles for National Geographic include Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America, Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America, Illustrated Birds, Birding Essentials, and Complete Birds of North America.

Jon L. Dunn and Louise Zemaitis, authors and experts on bird feeding, landscaping for birds, butterflies, and birding for children, also contribute to the book.

The Best Foods to Attract Birds to Your Backyard
Seeds, staples of backyard bird feeding, come in a sometimes confusing variety. Yet a few basic types will satisfy a diverse clientele. Other foods may attract different birds.

  • Sunflower seeds: These come in two kinds. The smaller black-oil sunflower seeds will bring the greatest variety of species, from chickadees and titmice to jays. The larger striped type is better for strong-billed birds such as Purple Finches and Evening Grosbeaks. Even woodpeckers will visit a hopper or tray feeder for sunflower seeds.
  • Mixed seeds: A birdseed mix should be an important part of any backyard menu, but quality varies greatly. The best mixtures are combinations of black-oil sunflower, white proso millet, bits of nuts and corn, and perhaps safflower as well. Avoid the least expensive mixtures, which are filled with the small globes of red milo, which very few birds except doves eat.
  • Nuts and corn: Almost all seed-eating birds will enjoy unsalted nuts broken into bits with a rolling pin, and larger birds including jays will like cracked corn (although rake it up if it gets wet). Scatter the nuts and corn on the ground and hope that the birds will get their fair share before the squirrels arrive for breakfast.
  • Suet and peanut butter: These are high-energy winter foods loved by many species. See page 23 for tips on how to provide them. Suet is favored especially by woodpeckers. Peanut butter is a source of crucial energy for birds in winter, and it can be lifesaving for Carolina Wrens at the northern end of their range in a harsh season.
  • Fruits: Oranges cut in half or apples and other fruits cut in pieces are favorites of orioles, especially when they return in the spring to breed. Berries are a favored winter food for thrushes, Cedar Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, but these are best provided by landscaping with shrubs that will be loaded with berries during fall and winter.
  • Specialties: Experiment with other types of foods such as mealworms, which parents feed to nestlings; crushed oyster shell, a source of calcium; or stone grit, which various birds require to crush foods in their gizzard. Avoid using old bread.
  • Hummingbird food: Nothing beats the classic, simple recipe of one part white granulated sugar to four parts water. Boil the water, then add the sugar and stir. Don't use food coloring or artificial sweetener.


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(based on 1 review)

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(11 of 11 customers found this review helpful)


A "must have" for attracting birds

By MiriamEaglemon

from McAllen, TX

Verified Reviewer


  • Colorful
  • Informative


  • Limited in scope

Best Uses

  • Attracting birds to yard

I was sent a copy of this book by Penelope Dackis and asked to give my thoughts, and although I've been birding for over 40 years, I found the book very informative, although beginning birders would probably benefit the most from it. The sections on how to attract birds, both by feeding and by plantings, was very good, especially the helpful hints on where to place feeders and houses and what specifically to feed birds. The species guide portion of the book is concise and packed with good info, with color illustrations of the bird complete with key field marks pointed out, a range map, and information on voice, nesting, food (including what to feed them when applicable), and similar species. There are also informative "articles" throughout the guide portion, such as how birds get their names, how they stay warm, and why they migrate. Living in California for many years, I was pleased to see west coast birds included (as we've often groused about "eastern bias" in bird books :-)), but now that I live in the Rio Grande Valley, I was disappointed to see none of OUR common backyard specialty birds represented, although I understand one must be picky when limiting oneself to 150 species!

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