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Urban Ornithology (cover)

Publisher: Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca & London

Publication Year: 2018

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 534

ISBN Number: 9781501719615

Price: £ 60.00

Urban Ornithology: 150 Years of Birds in New York City

Any book that starts "It was a dark and very stormy night" has got to be worth investigating. What emerges is a testament to what long-term effort by dedicated observers can achieve. The book details the changing avifauna of a small corner of northern New York City (the western Bronx) over the last 150 years in astonishing detail.

Introductory chapters describe the topology of the area, and the large-scale changes seen since the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s, as well as some of the challenges of assembling such a trove of valuable information. The bulk of the book is taken up by the individual accounts that summarise the records available, and the changing fortunes of each species. These are put into the context of the wider New York area, but sadly not that of the regional north-east US, which can make it hard for outsiders to judge the significance of some of the trends.

Urban-dwelling birds are often over-looked and this book provides a welcome antidote to that, however, whilst there is a wealth of detail here, its single-minded focus on the study area does make it harder to see the general patterns implied in the title. The authors do, though, provide a list of questions to be answered and recommendations for improving the area for birds (and other wildlife) so we should salute their efforts and wish them well for the next 150 years of recording!

Book reviewed by Rob Robinson

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