New FREE E-Book: Common Garden Birds from The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland

Crossley_Common_Garden_BirdClick here to download the complete e-book, Common Garden Birds [PDF]

This free e-book features Common Garden Birds of Britain and Ireland. This selection of images is drawn from The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland. These images are available to download/use/link, but please provide credit to The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland, Princeton University Press, 2013.

Click on the images below to open a full-sized version.


Related: Raptors from The Crossley ID Guide, 25 Common Feeder Birds in N. America


Blackbird Blue Tit Brambling
Chaffinch Coal Tit Dunnock
Eurasian Collared Dove Goldfinch Great-spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit Greenfinch Long-tailed Tit
Nuthatch Robin Song Thrush

A sneak peek at Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow

We are publishing Avian Architecture in June. Here, author Peter Goodfellow, reflects on birds as architects which gives us a good opportunity to share some sneak peeks at some page spreads (click on the smaller images below to see larger versions). Enjoy!

This spring I was talking to a lady who said, “Oh, I’m not like you. I really do not like birds!” At the other extreme there are men and women – you may know one – who are fanatical birders, “twitchers” in fact, who must see as many species as possible.

There’s more to the topic of birds than those two points of view. Writers and lovers of wildlife have hit on one quality which birds have which suggests they are not dull or dumb creatures – their ability to be “architects”. One could even say, “We have learned all that skill from the birds, and live like them, as the following examples suggest!”

Take the American Robin Turdus migratorius for example. On arrival in their breeding territory the homely couple build a cup-shaped nest in a bush. It is just big enough to house the growing family. After hatching from four blue eggs the young are tended carefully by both parents. In contrast, the bird world has landed gentry in the impressive presence of Mute Swans Cygnus olor. These large birds build a substantial mound-nest of water weed at the edge of their territory, the lake, which is as jealously guarded by the male against intruders, as any pop-star’s villa surrounded by a wall.

Big societies have their problem inhabitants. Thieves and robbers raid as soon as our backs are turned. Pairs of Eurasian Rooks Corvus frugilegus build high in treetops in a colony of maybe several dozen pairs. Careful observation reveals that the cock birds are repeatedly quick to steal sticks from a neighbour’s nest to build up their own, rather than hunt for new ones.

Many birds are content, like we are, with small families. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris builds a tiny nest for a family of just two. The Common Eider Somateria mollissima , however, lays up to ten eggs in a nest on the ground, wonderfully insulated with its own down (mollissima means most soft), which for centuries has been harvested in northern Europe to make – you’ve guessed it – eiderdowns. The young join other families and are looked after in a crêche by other Eiders known as “aunties”.

Birds such as Purple Martins Progne subis use rented accommodation, large specially made nest boxes for several pairs. The Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla lives with maybe hundreds of others in a sea- cliff condominium. Each pair builds a sturdy nest of weed on a ledge, where they rear their two young.

In modern Human life there are two aspects which birds thought of first. A fine example of the Do-It-Yourself Bird (or Hen-pecked Husband, depending on your point of view) is the Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. The male may build half a dozen nests in spring. He shows his chosen female a nest who just puts the finishing touches to it, lining it with feathers. In complete contrast is one of the leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. She lays four eggs in a scrape in the ground. She then leaves them, and they are incubated by the male, who continues the home duties by rearing the young until they fledge after about three weeks.

Sir John Collings Squire (1884-1958) was born in my home town of Plymouth – the original Plymouth, England! He was an influential literary editor and published poet. In conclusion, I offer here his thoughts about birds and their nests, and hope that you will find birds’ nests as wonderful as he and I believe:

O delicate chain over all the ages stretched,
O dumb tradition from what far darkness fetched:
Each little architect with its one design
Perpetual, fixed and right in stuff and line,
Each little ministrant who knows one thing,
One learned rite to celebrate the spring.
Whatever alters else on sea or shore,
These are unchanging: Man must still explore.