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On the Wing

Readers' Cafe

Baby Birds An Artist Looks into the Nest
Birds Art Life A Year of Observation
Birds of the Photo Ark
Bright Wings An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America
The Genius of Birds
The House of Owls
How to Know the Birds The Art and Adventure of Birding
Laws Guide to Drawing Birds
Lost Among the Birds Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
One Wild Bird at a Time Portraits of Individual Lives
Warblers & Woodpeckers A Father-Son Big Year of Birding
Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest / Julie Zickefoose

This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history, something readers have come to expect from Julie Zickefoose. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of seventeen different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on Julie's wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately, and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider's glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition. As an artist and wildlife rehabilitator, Julie possesses a unique skill set that includes sketching and painting rapidly from life as well as handling delicate hatchlings. She is uniquely positioned to create such an opus, and in fact, nothing like it has ever been attempted. Julie has many fans, and she will gain many more with this unparalleled work.

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation / Kyo Maclear

A writer's search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life - a field guide to things small and significant.When it comes to birds, Kyo Maclear isn't seeking the exotic. Rather she discovers joy in the seasonal birds that find their way into view in city parks and harbors, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Maclear looks to the small, the steady, the slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that leave room for contemplation. A distilled, crystal-like companion to H is for Hawk, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in the urban environment and explores what happens when the core lessons of birding are applied to other aspects of art and life.

Birds of the Photo Ark / Joel Sartore

For avian enthusiasts, from armchair observers to dedicated life-listers, this brilliant book from acclaimed National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore celebrates the beauty of all birds, great and small.

This elegantly packaged celebration of birds from around the world unites incredible animal portraits from Joel Sartore's distinguished National Geographic Photo Ark project with inspiring text by up-and-coming birder Noah Strycker. It includes hundreds of species, from tiny finches to charismatic eagles; brilliant toucans, intricate birds of paradise, and perennial favorites such as parrots, hummingbirds, and owls also make colorful appearances. Everyone who cares about birds--from the family with a bird feeder outside the kitchen window to the serious birder with a life list of thousands--will flock to this distinctive and uplifting book.

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds / Billy Collins

In this beautiful collection of poems and paintings, Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate, joins with David Allen Sibley, America's foremost bird illustrator, to celebrate the winged creatures that have inspired so many poets to sing for centuries. From Catullus and Chaucer to Robert Browning and James Wright, poets have long treated birds as powerful metaphors for beauty, escape, transcendence, and divine expression.

Here, in this substantial anthology, more than one hundred contemporary and classic poems are paired with close to sixty original, ornithologically precise illustrations. Part poetry collection, part field guide, part art book, Bright Wings presents verbal and visual interpretations of the natural world and reminds us of our intimate connection to the "bright wings" around us. Each in their own way, these poems and pictures honor the enchanting creatures that have been, and continue to be, longtime collaborators with the poet's and painter's art.

Poet and bird pairings include: Wallace Stevens and the Blackbird; Emily Dickinson and the Robin; Marianne Moore and the Frigate Pelican; Thomas Hardy and the Goldfinch; Sylvia Plath and the Pheasant; John Updike and the Seagull; Walt Whitman and the Eagle; Billy Collins and the Sparrow.

The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America / Matt Kracht

Perfect for the anti-aviary (or bird fanatic with a sense of humor),??this snarky illustrated handbook is equal parts profane, funny, and - let's face it - true. Featuring 50 common North American birds, such as the White-Breasted Butt Nugget and the Goddamned Canada Goose (or White-Breasted Nuthatch and Canada Goose for the layperson), Kracht identifies all the idiots in your backyard and details exactly why they suck with humorous, yet angry, ink drawings. Each entry is accompanied by facts about a bird's (annoying) call, its (dumb) migratory pattern, its (downright tacky) markings, and more. With migratory maps and tips for birding, plus musings on the avian population and the ethics of birdwatching, this is the essential guide to all things wings.

The Genius of Birds / Jennifer Ackerman

Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence.

In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research - the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states - Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent.


This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science. Ackerman delivers an extraordinary story that will both give readers a new appreciation for the exceptional talents of birds and let them discover what birds can reveal about our changing world. Richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.

The House of Owls / Tony Angell

For a quarter century, Tony Angell and his family shared the remarkable experience of closely observing pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside their forest home. The journals the author recorded his observations in, and the captivating drawings he created, form the heart of this compelling book - a personal account of an artist-naturalist's life with owls. Angell's extensive illustrations show owls engaged in what owls do - hunting, courting, raising families, and exercising their inquisitive natures - and reveal his immeasurable respect for their secret lives and daunting challenges.

Angell discusses the unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought. He also offers detailed scientific descriptions of the nineteen species of owls found in North America, as well as their close relatives elsewhere. Always emphasizing the interaction of humans and owls, the author affirms by his own example the power of these birds both to beguile and to inspire.

How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding / Ted Floyd

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.

Laws Guide to Drawing Birds / John Muir Laws

Called a ''modern Audubon'' by the Washington Post, renowned artist and naturalist John Muir Laws brings us this full-color how-to guide to drawing birds. Laws's book, with an illuminating foreword by beloved ornithologist David Sibley, is devoted not only to art but also to the lives, forms, and postures of the birds themselves. It intertwines artistic technique and the exquisite details of natural history, and drawing becomes the vehicle for seeing.

As Laws writes, ''To draw feathers, you must understand how feathers grow, overlap, and insert into the body. To create the body, you must have an understanding of the bird's skeletal structure. To pose this skeleton, you must be able to perceive the energy, intention, and life of the bird.'' This inspiring guide will enhance the skills of serious artists but also, perhaps more importantly, it will provide help for those who insist they can't draw.

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year / Neil Hayward

Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn't want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job. He didn't want to think about his failed relationship with "the one" or his potential for ruining a new relationship with "the next one." And he almost certainly didn't want to think about turning forty. And so instead he went birding.

Birding was a lifelong passion. It was only among the birds that Neil found a calm that had eluded him in the confusing world of humans. But this time he also found competition. His growing list of species reluctantly catapulted him into a Big Year--a race to find the most birds in one year. ?Neil's Big Year was as unplanned as it was accidental: It was the perfect distraction to life.

One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives / Bernd Heinrich

Heinrich (Emeritus, Biology/Univ. of Vermont; The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration, 2014, etc.) smoothly describes how studying the daily lives of birds in their natural environments allows him to experience their world vicariously. Now retired and living in a cabin in the Maine woods, he devotes himself to closely observing "his avian neighbors, visitors, and vagrants, and keep[ing] daily records throughout spring, summer, fall, and winter." Every year, he welcomes a pair of broad-wing hawks who feast at a vernal pond populated by frogs, spring peepers, and salamanders while refurbishing their old nest. Unusually, they provide a fern cover on the nest, which they update on a daily basis after their chicks hatch. Heinrich also includes anecdotes from an earlier time when he still lived in Vermont. Awakened one morning by the loud drumming of a male woodpecker on a nearby apple tree, the author wondered if perhaps he was seeking to attract a female. Surprisingly, when a female was drawn to the sound, he stopped drumming and flew away. The same behavior was repeated the following day. The author's observations led him to conclude that the bird's drumming was not part of a mating ritual but rather a noisy advertisement of his nest-building skills. Vireos nesting near his cabin allowed him to observe how they deliberately reduced the number of eggs they were hatching to accommodate the reduced food supply after an unseasonal freeze. Heinrich explains that bird-watching has been an important part of his life since he was a boy on his family's farm. When he was 6, they moved from Germany to Maine. Finding familiar birds nesting "immediately made this place our home," he writes.

Warblers & Woodpeckers: A Father-Son Big Year of Birding / Sneed B. Collard III

From the killer bee-infested border region of southeast Arizona to the sultry islands of the Galapagos, Warblers & Woodpeckers recounts the quest of a father and his thirteen-year-old son to see as many birds as possible in a single year. With a measured blend of humor, natural history, and adventure, this tale takes readers to great birding hotspots of America and beyond, both to experience their incredible avian wealth and to experience the focused, often eccentric, world of ornithological travel. Along the way, readers share the ups and downs of the relationship between a father and his teenage son.
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