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Youngstown OhioHummingbirds: Jewels on Air
Published: 29 April, 2003
Our price: $12.98
List price: $12.98
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As of: November 07th, 2006 08:05:51 AM

Author: Melanie Votaw
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Customer comments on this Youngstown Ohio Book

Youngstown Ohio From an Ornithologist

I take issue with the prior review, as I am one of the ornithologists that the author consulted in the writing of this book. It should be noted that a coffee table book will not have the length to be extensive, nor will it be able to include every detail regarding its subject.

Youngstown Ohio More pretty fluff on hummingbirds

From the abysmal accuracy level of many popular books on hummingbirds, it seems that book editors figure they don't need quality text by a knowledgeable author as long as they've got a bunch of spectacular photos to seduce people into buying the book. Unfortunately, "Hummingbirds: Jewels on Air" follows this disappointing pattern: Gorgeous to look at and even readable, but painfully short on substance. Neither the author's professed enthusiasm for the subject nor her previous writing experience seems to have prepared her for the challenge of writing a credible book on hummingbirds.

I'd love to see a list of resources the author used in her research, because I suspect that she just repeated inaccurate and outdated information from other popular books without bothering to correspond with bona fide hummingbird experts or consult scientific references for verification. There are too many examples to list, but here are a few:

* The author states, "You would have to eat 20,000 calories daily or 50 pounds of sugar to keep pace with just one hummingbird." Actually, in the case of a hypothetical 150-pound person eating like a Ruby-throated-sized hummingbird, it's more like 130,000 calories or 70 pounds of sugar.

* The author repeats the myth that bats have poor eyesight, when in fact the bats to which she's referring are nectar-feeding specialists with large, sensitive eyes that help them locate their flowers. A later statement about bats feeding at hummingbird feeders suggests that the author is unaware that not all bats feed on nectar and that in the U.S. those that do are found only along the Mexican border.

* The statement that bats and insects cannot feed from long tubular flowers is incorrect. Many bat-pollinated flowers are tubular, including some tropical species of Datura or angel's trumpets, and nectar-drinking bats have extremely long tongues that allow them to reach the sweet stuff inside. Hawk moths also have very long tongues for feeding from tubular flowers (remember the one in "Silence of the Lambs"?).

* Likewise the claim that insects can't hover to feed on flowers; this will come as a huge surprise to the bee flies and hawk moths, which feed at flowers like hummingbirds do (and have probably been doing so for millions of years longer). The book later contradicts itself with a reference to the hummingbird-like flight of "hummingbird moths," a name applied to several smallish species of hawk moths, also claiming that these moths are larger than some hummingbirds (some hawk moths are larger than some hummingbirds, but not the ones that are commonly confused with hummingbirds).

* The statement late in Part One that hummingbirds "are the smallest birds in the world, equivalent in size to a human thumb and weighing no more than a penny" leaves the reader with the mistaken impression that all hummingbirds are that small and contradicts a size comparison between the smallest and largest species that appeared 11 pages earlier.

I gave this book two stars because it's not the worst book on hummingbirds ("Hummingbirds of North America" by Dan True is the top contender for that title, IMO), but it's still a long way from the best book on the subject. I was tempted to give it a third star just for the photos, but that wouldn't be fair since the author didn't do her own photography and photographers don't receive royalties on books like this.

Since "Hummingbirds: Beauty in Flight," with text by Arizona hummingbird researcher Karen Krebbs, is apparently out of print, "The World of the Hummingbird" by Robert Burton might be the best alternative for a general-interest book on hummingbirds. Burton's British and so can't claim anything close to Krebbs's in-depth familiarity with hummingbirds, but he's a well-known naturalist with several other bird books to his credit.

Youngstown Ohio Gorgeous photos and fun, informative read!

This is a great introduction to hummingbirds. The text is delightful for all ages, and the photographs are stunning. These creatures are amazing, and I was surprised by so many things about them. I was also surprised that I didn't lose interest reading about them. From a birdwatching relative, I understand that the book has a lot of useful information for the novice as well as the veteran, and I've also been told that some of the species pictured are very rare to see in a book. I had no idea that hummingbirds come in so many different varieties with head crests and odd tails, not to mention their fascinating feeding, nesting and migrating habits. We all know they can fly like no other bird, but they sleep in an almost dead state? Truly amazing! My kids and I have really enjoyed having this book, and I have to say that my birdwatching relative prefers it to most other comparable hummingbird books on the market.

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