Review – All About Birds: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology

Birds have captured the attention of humans for all time. Their colorful beauty, musical voices, mysterious migrations, intriguing behaviors, and effortless flight make birds a popular attraction. Plus, they are relatively easy animals to study.

All about Birds: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology provides a wonderful, easy to follow history of ornithology. Starting before science, this historical reference covers each period of history from the first ornithologist—credited to Aristotle—through the 20th century.

Cover to cover, All About Birds is loaded with illustrations, photographs, and diagrams of the people, birds, and events that have advanced ornithology and led to modern day birding. Learn about the famous names like John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson as well as lesser known but important players such as John Ray and Francis Willughby.

Reading through The rise and influence of American ornithology you come across names like Cassin, Baird, Nuttall, and Bonaparte, all people with birds named after them. Reading about their backgrounds is enlightening to the influence they had on ornithology.

Of course, bird study was conducted all over the globe and All About Birds does an excellent job covering all corners of the globe.

However, All About Birds does seem to lack in the coverage of the 20th Century. While this time period is covered, including a section on Roger Tory Peterson, more information could have been included. The last century has been huge in terms of ornithology, conservation, and the popularization of birding. Of course, many of these great people are still hard at work and not yet part of “history”.

Regardless, All About Birds provides a great reference to the wonderful history of ornithology and the great discoveries have ultimately built the foundation of today’s modern birder. Birders can learn a lot from this book: where we came from and how we can become a part of ornithological history.

All About Birds provides bold face type for important names and organizations as well as annotations in the sidebars describing the illustrations and important events. Included is a color-coded timeline that assists in following history from 340 B.C. to the year 2002.

All about Birds: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology
Valérie Chansigaud
Princeton University Press
ISBN13: 978-0-691-14519-8
March 21, 2010

Disclosure: we were given a copy of this wonderful book by the publisher to review. However, we were not persuaded to say or do anything other than give an honest review, which we have.

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