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Books for Birders

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors

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by Jerry Liguori (Princeton University Press)
Reviewed by Stephen J. Bodio

Jerry Ligouri’s Hawks at a Distance is in almost every way the opposite of The Crossley ID Guide. It is one of those “subtle texts,” a book about the art of seeing the almost-invisible distinctions between distant flying raptors. It is less a book for beginners than one for experienced raptor birders, a book that rationally examines the intuition and “jizz” of raptor identification. It is a book about becoming a better birder, not a birder. I know I can amaze people who are unfamiliar with raptors by calling out the age or sex of many species at a distance where they might only know it is a hawk, but I am fully aware that to a serious migrant raptor birder I am as much a neophyte even at the age of 61 as those beginners are to me. Hawks at a Distance is going to make me better! The photographs are lifelike in their ambiguity. As the author says, it “is the first guide that presents birds of unknown identity pointing out instances when telling age, sex, color morph, or species is impossible.” I’d advise the potential user to look at the (often tiny) photos, and try their own IDs. If you could successfully identify just the accipiters and the Rough-legged Hawk morphs you would be on your way to a Ph.D. in raptor birding!

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Build a Birdhouse

Living Bird Magazine

Autumn 2011

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