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Identify Yourself

"As avid birders, Rosalyn and I know how difficult it is to identify birds. Bill, Julie, and the folks from Bird Watcher's Digest have helped solve this problem with Identify Yourself." — Jimmy Carter

About the Book

At the heart of bird watching is the desire to know what bird you're watching—to identify it properly and give it a name. Birders know that identifying birds can sometimes be easy and intuitive, but more often is the hardest, most confusing thing they've ever attempted. Finally, help for baffled birders has arrived. Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Challenges, by Bill Thompson III and the editors of Bird Watcher's Digest, resolves the most confounding identification problems.

Black-billed cuckoo or yellow-billed cuckoo? Purple finch or house finch? Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk? Greater scaup or lesser scaup? From sparrows to gulls to warblers to wrens, Identify Yourself examines bird species that are commonly encountered but difficult to tell apart. The book offers tips, techniques, and tricks that make bird identification not only easier but also more fun. For instance:
    • Bay-breasted or blackpoll warbler? If the bird is in fall plumage, take a look at its feet.
    • How old is that gull? Figuring out the age of a shorebird or gull can help unlock the secret of its identity.
    • Common crow, fish crow, or northwestern crow? A map may be better than a field guide to distinguish these similar-looking species.
In the book's foreword, naturalist Kenn Kaufman writes, "When I was getting started in bird watching, I hated sparrows, gulls, terns, flycatchers, and female ducks because they were so confusing, so variable, so similar to their relatives. After I had been at it for a while, I loved these birds for the very same reasons." Many share Kaufman's experience. Distinguishing between similar species can drive a birder crazy, but there is nothing so rewarding as correctly identifying a particularly mysterious bird. As Kaufman writes, "The pleasure of being able to tell these birds apart was more than worth the effort."

Identify Yourself helps solve real-world bird identification conundrums and provides a clear and logical path for navigating each of these challenges. The entertaining and insightful text is accompanied by gorgeous full-color illustrations (by Julie Zickefoose), making the book's lessons vividly memorable. With lighthearted humor, words of wisdom, and dead-on advice, Identify Yourself will fully prepare all birders to distinguish the mystery birds in their lives.

About the Author

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest, the popular bimonthly magazine with 70,000 subscribers that has been published by his family since 1978. He has edited and written dozens of books, including the best-selling Bird Watching for Dummies.

Outgoing and funny, Bill enlivens bird walks and programs at birding festivals with his not-so-dry humor and ever-present guitar. He is in constant demand as a keynote speaker, entertainer, and trip leader at festivals across the country. Bill is a frequent guest on bird and nature radio shows and often serves as a consultant for editorial projects, birding ecotourism, and product development in the wild bird and birding industry.

An avid bird watcher from the age of eight, Bill has observed bird behavior all over the world, but his favorite bird watching is done near home, in the rolling wooded hills outside Whipple, Ohio.

About the Illustrator

Julie Zickefoose is a widely published natural history writer and artist. Educated at Harvard University in biology and art, she worked for six years as a field biologist for The Nature Conservancy before turning to a freelance art career. Her illustration credits include The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Spider, Cricket, and Ladybug. She has written and illustrated articles for Country Journal, and Bird Watcher's Digest has published more than thirty of Julie's articles and seventeen of her cover paintings.

Julie has presented illustrated lectures for nature organizations and festivals across the country and exhibited her paintings at universities, museums, galleries, and juried shows. She has painted color posters and illustrated educational materials for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and the Boy Scouts of America. Reader's Digest Books, Yale University Press, and National Geographic Books have published her illustrations or writing. The American Ornithologists' Union and the Academy of Natural Sciences employed her as a primary illustrator of their landmark seventeen-volume work, The Birds of North America. Julie's commentaries are a popular feature on NPR's All Things Considered.

Bill, Julie, and their kids live on an 80-acre nature sanctuary in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. A 50-foot-tall bird-watching tower atop their home helps them enjoy and catalogue the wildlife they protect, including 181 bird species and 67 butterfly species to date.

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