Johnsgard, Paul A. Prairie Birds: Fragile Splendor in the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, 2001.
My focus on this book is in chapter six “Shorebird Sagas.” Instead of adding new knowledge to my head regarding Long billed curlews, this chapter reinforces what I know from my other readings. What I really like about this book is how it places the Long billed curlew into the context of the prairie. For instance the illustration on page 93 shows the bill profiles of the Long billed curlew, the Marbled godwit, and the Upland sandpiper. Johnsgard is the researcher, the author, and the very capable illustrator of this book. This is going to be a fabulous book for me to read as I work to better understand the ecology of the prairie birds in my region.
For instance I read information about the duration of incubation in several other sources. Here it is written quite concisely and precisely. From the middle of the section on Long billed curlews: “Both sexes participate in incubation, which requires about twenty-seven to twenty-eight days. Typically, the female incubates during the daylight hours, and the male at night. Changeovers are accompanied by whistled signals from the incoming bird as it lands some distance from the nest, which is then answered similarly by the sitting bird. The nest is then approached cautiously and on foot.” – p 96-97 This is definitely a scholarly work including both in-text citations and a lengthy bibliography. It is also very readable.
Let’s look at the whole book.
The Table of Contents:
part one The Land: Its History and Biota
one An Ancient Sea of Grass
two The Biotic Communities of the Central Plains
three Lessons in Survival
part two The Grassland Avifauna
four Broad Wings over Short Grass Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks
five Dawn Dances on the Prairie Prairie-chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse
six Shorebird Sagas Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, and Upland Sandpiper
seven High Drama on the High Plains Prairie Falcons, Mountain Plovers, and Prairie Dogs
eight Meadows and Marshes Northern Harrier, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Franklin’s Gull
nine The Silent Hunters of Dusk Burrowing and Short-eared Owls
ten A Lark by Any Name Meadowlarks, Horned Lark, and Lark Sparrow
eleven Music over the Shrubsteppe McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs; Lark Bunting
twelve Furtive Sparrows in the Grass Clay-colored, Grasshopper, and Vesper
thirteen Songs of the Northern Prairies Sprague’s Pipit, Bobolink, and Savannah and Baird’s Sparrows
fourteen The Peripheral Seed-eaters Dickcissel; Henslow’s, Cassin’s, and Brewer’s Sparrows
fifteen 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
The book begins with a list of figures, tables and charts, preface, and acknowledgments. It ends with a glossary, references, and a species index
WOW this author has also made available an online book: “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Great Plains
Sites, Species, and Spectacles” on https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=zeabook Check out the table of contents to the right. Definitely worth acquiring if you are going to be birding on the Great Plains. You can download the .pdf and then upload it to your iPad or Kindle. This time instead of grouping by bird species the information is arranged by location and refuge. The book has a lot of the similar, complementary and new information. I will be using it as a guide to birding locations when I drive from Idaho to Texas.
Looks to me like I’ve found an author I will be collecting. Other books by Johnsgard include but are not limited to:
- “The North American Geese: Their Biology and Behavior,” 2016
- “The North American Perching and Dabbling Ducks,” 2017
- “Wildlife of Nebraska: A Natural History,” 2020
- “Chorus of Cranes: The Cranes of North America and the World,” 2015 (YAY I have this one)
About the author from Wikipedia “Paul Austin Johnsgard (28 June 1931 – 28 May 2021) was an ornithologist, artist and emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska. His works include nearly fifty books including several monographs, principally about the waterfowl and cranes.” I’m sad that I found his books after his parting.
– Happy reading