Bird­ing

A new two-vol­ume at­las is a spec­tac­u­lar and thor­ough cat­a­logue of Canada’s north­ern birds

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS - By David Bird

A new two-vol­ume at­las from UBC Press is a spec­tac­u­lar and thor­ough cat­a­logue of Nu­navut’s birds

At the re­cent In­ter­na­tional Or­nitho­log­i­cal Congress in Van­cou­ver, Tony Gas­ton, long­time seabird re­searcher, teared up in front of his spellbound au­di­ence while re­call­ing the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions of his old friends, many since passed away. My mind wan­dered back to 1973 when I was a wet-be­hindthe-ears young or­nithol­o­gist who had been for­tu­nate enough to have been hired by the late Dal­ton Muir, then work­ing for the Cana­dian Wildlife Ser­vice. He sent me to study the breed­ing ecol­ogy of a pair of white-morph gyr­fal­cons on a sand­stone cliff not far from Eureka on the Fosheim Penin­sula of Ellesmere Is­land. It was a dream job, and the gyr­fal­con has been my favourite bird ever since.

The oc­ca­sion for Tony’s pre­sen­ta­tion was the in­tro­duc­tion of a brand-new two-vol­ume set en­ti­tled Birds of Nu­navut that he co-edited with James Richards, for UBC Press. At press time I had not yet had time to read all 810 pages doc­u­ment­ing every one of the 295 species of birds that have ever been recorded there (in­clud­ing even the now ex­tinct pas­sen­ger pi­geon). The prod­uct of the com­bined ef­forts of 18 ex­perts over no less than 300 sea­sons of field­work in Nu­navut, the col­lec­tion is breath­tak­ing. I have seen thou­sands of bird books in my ca­reer, but Birds of Nu­navut has to rank among the very top five in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion and con­tent.

Be­cause Nu­navut is one of the most beau­ti­ful places on Earth, and be­cause it is home to a wide ar­ray of ex­cep­tion­ally gor­geous birds, it made per­fect sense to ac­com­pany ar­ti­cles on ev­ery­thing from iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to con­ser­va­tion with 800 stun­ning colour pho­to­graphs taken by ex­perts, as well as 145 range maps. The non-passer­ine birds — that is, wa­ter­fowl, rap­tors, seabirds, etc. — are cov­ered in the first slightly thicker vol­ume, and the song­birds are fea­tured in the sec­ond vol­ume, but the vol­umes are sold to­gether as one book.

UBC Press and the 18 au­thors have thought of ev­ery­thing for th­ese two vol­umes. The first be­gins with chap­ters on the ecol­ogy and ge­og­ra­phy of the ter­ri­tory, im­por­tant and pro­tected ar­eas for birds, the his­tory of or­nithol­ogy and past, cur­rent and fu­ture mon­i­tor­ing of birds. There is also, of course, a huge chap­ter on cli­mate change. A par­tic­u­larly nice touch is a page de­voted to the peo­ple of Nu­navut and the de­ceased pi­o­neers who stud­ied the birds there.

You do not have to be an or­nithol­o­gist, an Arc­tic bi­ol­o­gist, a bird-lover at any level or a tourist to need to have th­ese two vol­umes in your hands and on your li­brary shelf. Any­one with a pass­ing in­ter­est in any of the above will find them beau­ti­ful, in­for­ma­tive and great value. And with cli­mate change on many folks’ lips th­ese days, the tim­ing could not be bet­ter to cat­a­logue and record the wide range of Nu­navut’s cur­rent and his­tor­i­cal bird pop­u­la­tions. Copies are avail­able in book­stores across Canada, on­line and di­rectly from the pub­lisher at ubc­press.ca.

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