Synopses & Reviews
For anyone who has ever thrilled to a cloud of blackbirds or a solitary falcon against the prairie sky, Paul Johnsgard has written a book that will both inspire and inform.
One of America's preeminent ornithologists, Johnsgard blends science, nature, and personal observations to tell the life histories of thirty-three grassland birds. Writing with precision and passion, he draws from his own observations to convey the magic of prairie birds, taking readers hawk-watching at Scotts Bluff or beside a prairie river on a spring evening with song sparrows in the willow thickets and cranes at the water's edge.
In graceful prose, Johnsgard provides an overview of the history, current status, and uncertain future of prairie birds, from falcons and shorebirds to larks and sparrows. Some are intercontinental migrants that winter in South America, others sedentary species or short-distance travelers who may frequent the grasslands of Mexico. Johnsgard describes each species, its features, habits, habitats, migratory patterns, and breeding season ecology with the knowledge and flair that has made his books indispensable for birders of every level of experience.
More than a book on birds, Prairie Birds is a compelling portrait of the native grasslands of the Great Plains, which constitute nearly a fifth of continent and are the most imperiled of North America's terrestrial ecosystems. He tells how birds evolved along with this "ancient sea of grass" over eons of time, and also warns of the effects of human interference on the future of grasslands and birds alike as grazing, burning, and agriculture threaten the native grasses on which many birds depend for survival.
The book features forty-seven drawings by the author, including a number of bird songs sonograms. Appendixes provide an annotated list of more than one hundred prairie preserves, bird checklists for primary refuges and sanctuaries, and a list of all birds and plants mentioned in the text. A list of more than 600 citations makes this a definitive reference as well as a pleasurable read.
Prairie Birds is an essential book for readers everywhere who loves birds and are concerned about their future. It invites us to stop and listen for the song of the pipit or longspur as it shows us America's grasslands in a new light.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 299-328) and index.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Figures, Tables, and Charts
Part One. The Land: its History and Biota
1. An Ancient Sea of Grass
2. The Biotic Communities of the Central Plains
3. Lessons in Survival
Part Two. The Grassland Avifauna
4. Broad Wings over Short Grass
Swainson's and Ferruginous Hawks
5. Dawn Dances on the Prairie
Prairie-chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse
6. Shorebird Sagas
Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, and Upland Sandpiper
7. High Drama on the Plains
Prairie Falcons, Mountain Plovers, and Prairie Dogs
8. Meadows and Marshes
Northern Harrier, Wilson's Phalarope, and Franklin's Gull
9. The Silent Hunters of Dusk
Burrowing and Short-eared Owls
10. A Lark by Any Name
Meadowlarks, Horned Lark, and Lark Sparrow
11. Music over the Shurbsteppe
McCown's and Chestnut-collored Longspurs; Lark Bunting
12. Furtive Sparrows in the Grass
Clay-colored, Grasshopper, and Vesper
13. Songs of the Northern Prairies
Sprague's Pipit, Bobolink, and Savannah and Baird's Sparrows
14. The Peripheral Seed-eaters
Dickcissel; Henslow's, Cassin's, and Brewer's Sparrows
Conclusion: The Disappearing Prairie and Its Declining Avifauna
A. Major Grassland Preserves in the Great Plains
B. Summer Status of Endemic Grassland Birds in Selected Areas
C. Birds and Plants Mentioned in the Text