This beautifully illustrated sound guide is the perfect way to introduce both children and adults to the wonders of bird song.
Each of the twelve species covered has a short description explaining some fascinating facts about the bird. The reader can press the relevant button on the side panel to hear a ten-second burst of song.
The birds featured in this book are all commonly sighted in back yards throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
I am lucky enough to live in a village where there are surrounding wooded hills and fields, wetlands, and two big rivers - all havens for wildlife of all kinds. My own garden has many trees, homes to birds of various kinds. We also have a good supply of rodents to keep the larger ones fed. However, although the birds are very vocal (starting up just before dawn in summer, and continuing until sunset), it is often difficult to discern which species are there at any moment. Some, like the fantails and sparrows, are highly visible, but others hide in the foliage and are heard rather than seen. I do know that there is a mixture of different bird calls, often at the same time and vying with one another for volume!
I started this book by reading through the descriptions of the various birds that had been recorded. After reading each page, I pressed the matching button to listen to their call. It was interesting to find that I recognised all of them. One or two have not, to my knowledge, visited my home, but I have encountered them elsewhere in New Zealand - notably the kaka and kotare. On the other hand, birds not included in the book are also frequent visitors: sparrows. pukeko, and even ducks often arrive to visit. Because these birds are not shy, however, there is no need to hear them to be able to confirm their identity - even though all three, particularly the ducks, are very noisy anyway.
The book is well organised, with five different graphics for each bird - one large and four small - as well as a miniature to show which button should be pressed to activate the sound recording. The inclusion of several views makes it easy to identify birds more readily; sometimes you can catch a glimpse of the singer through foliage, but an incomplete sighting like this makes identification more difficult. Some birds are naturally shy: they don't mind sharing their calls, but are more reticent about leaving cover to display themselves to possible enemies. This is understandable given the number of dogs, cats, and other natural predators that might be lurking. Humans might be potential enemies too, from the bird's point of view.
One useful aspect of this book is its availability to birdwatchers of all ages. Children as young as three can use it to identify a bird, using only the sounds and graphics - the words are not essential. For older children and adults, who can read the accompanying text, there is the opportunity to learn more about the bird of course, but it is not essential. Personally, I have always enjoyed standing under a tree where there is a bird singing, waiting for a break in the song, then responding with a similar whistle of my own. Invariably, the bird stops to listen and then replies. This can go on for ten minutes or more, and is great fun. But now it will be even more fun since I will be able to identify the bird I am conversing with.
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