Book Review: Birds of Illinois

Birds of IllinoisBirds of Illinois
By Stan Tekiela. Photographs. 288 pp. Adventure Publications. $12.95.

I almost stepped on a baby Mourning Dove as I was walking home today. There she was in the middle of the sidewalk on Church Street, looking eagerly up at me as if she hoped I was going to give her an earthworm.

If I’d had one handy, I would have gladly shared it. But I don’t usually carry earthworms in my book bag. As it turned out, it’s just as well I didn’t have one—for her sake. When I got home I looked up “Mourning Dove” in my favorite field guide, Birds of Illinois by Stan Tekiela. I was sure Stan would know what a newborn dove would want for lunch. Stan knows everything about birds, including the fact that baby Mourning Doves thrive on a regurgitated liquid called crop-milk. Yecch.

Nevertheless, I like Birds of Illinois. I like it for its clear full-page photographs, its sensible organization (by the bird’s main color), its little migratory maps of Illinois, and its straightforward listing of facts. Each bird is compared to the very one you might be confusing it with. Stan seems to sense that I’m always hoping Turkey Vultures are really Bald Eagles, and he gently points out the differences. You can’t go wrong with Stan.

But what I really like about Birds of Illinois is that every bird has his or her own section called Stan’s Notes, listing interesting facts. I’m a pushover for interesting facts.

Did you know that Hummingbirds not only construct their nests from plant material and spider webs, but glue pieces of lichen on the outside for decoration? …Did you know that Dark-eyed Juncos are more comfortable on the ground? (So am I, but, really, doesn’t that seem odd for a bird?)… Or that Tree Swallows play by chasing after dropped feathers? No? You didn’t know that?

Neither did I until I read Stan.

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