When Bad Decisions Happen to Good Books

Non Birding Bill and I have always enjoyed exploring book stores, whether they be new or old. I'm forever looking to increase my bird power with whatever bird book I can find. I love new books with breakthrough information and I love old books to see how our philosophy of birds has changed over the years. Ninety years ago, one author thought the best way to deal with a Cooper's hawk was lead and told the world to be grateful peregrines were rare because they ate so many ducks. I don't hold ill will towards the authors, they were working with limited information and research abilities.

The other day in a Border's I came across The World Atlas of Birds. The book's publication date read January 2006. However, a quick thumb through and a look at the illustrations and photos screamed 1960s. I was so stunned by the book, I tried to take a few stealthy photos for examples. Check out the photo at right. On the left is a very awkwardly posed great horned owl. I would imagine that the artist used a poorly put together taxidermy owl. Now, at first glance the bird on the right of the owl appears to look almost like a crow with a tiny beak. It's actually a purple martin. This got me to thinking, "If the photos and illustrations look out of date, what could the information be like?"

I paged through and read how rare and hard to find peregrine falcons are because of DDT, no mention of reintroduction and the success of the falcon being taken off the endangered species list. I checked California condor information and it implied where you can see them and no mention of the captive breeding program or tags that condors wear in the wild.

I have a suspicion that the publisher that owns this manuscript noticed how popular birding is today and that they could republish a book that came out forty years ago without making any changes. It kind of ticks me off, I feel insulted as a reader and feel bad for the authors involved with this book not having a chance to update their information.

So, unless you would like to have a book full of oddly illustrated birds, I would avoid purchasing the 2006 edition of this book. And really, if you do want a book full of oddly illustrated birds, you could probably find the original edition or many books similar at your local used book store.

Here are a few more examples:

A mourning dove? Don't we often see them teed up on a perch looking like a bird that is too lazy to hold its wing in properly. Publishers, I ask you, in this day and age is it really too expensive to get some photos. Look at all the pro birder photographers and digiscopers out there, you could have really jazzed this tome up.

Granted, snowy owls look a little different than other owls, but they don't look like they just downed a bottle of gin.