"Superb photographs and drawings." -- Choice
"Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
The distinctive pok pok pok sound of a woodpecker makes them easy to hear and identify, and watching one at work is fascinating. While all species share certain anatomical features, including a long, straight bill designed for drilling wood, woodpeckers' biology, behavior and habitats can vary widely.
Woodpeckers of North America is a comprehensive, profusely illustrated natural history reference to all 28 species of woodpecker found in the United States, Canada and northern Mexico. The book describes in detail the lives and attributes of each species, examining anatomy, communication, feeding and nesting habits, reproduction, mortality and their relationship with other woodpecker species and with humans.
Identifying traits are covered in 28 profiles that describe:
The book features 100 close-up color photographs that capture these intriguing birds in their natural environments. Detailed line drawings highlight interesting aspects of anatomy and behavior.
Birders, naturalists and general readers will find this book is an authoritative reference that is a pleasure to read.
Frances Backhouse is a writer for Audubon, Equinox, Canadian Geographic, New Scientist and Canadian Wildlife.
Most field guides to the birds of North America limit their geographic reach to Canada and the United States. Although convenient, this practice warrants reconsideration. After all, political borders mean nothing to our winged neighbors. As far as the gila woodpecker is concerned, the saguaro desert of Arizona is little different from the saguaro desert of Sonora, Mexico. The same goes for other species with international citizenship. From an ecosystem perspective, the continent is bigger than just two countries.
Having decided that this book should reflect ecological reality, I was faced with the dilemma of where to draw the line. Through the Isthmus of Panama, following the lead of the American Ornithologists' Union? Along Mexico's southern border, in keeping with various governmental alliances and trade agreements? Somewhere across the middle of Mexico? After much deliberation I concluded that, when it comes to woodpeckers, the latter approach makes the most sense.
During the 19th century, zoogeographers developed the concept of partitioning the terrestrial portions of the planet into faunal regions -- vast areas characterized by their distinctive animal life. This system is still widely used today, in a modified form that recognizes eight biogeographical realms instead of the original six faunal regions. In simple terms, Canada, the continental United States and northern Mexico are assigned to the Nearctic realm (along with Greenland and Bermuda), while southern Mexico joins Central and South America and the Caribbean islands in the Neotropical realm. Although debate continues as to the exact boundary between the two realms, the least complicated interpretation uses the tropic of Cancer (the latitudinal line 23 degrees 27 degrees north of the equator) as the reference line. I have done the same.
There will be those who quibble with this demarcation, saying it inappropriately includes species that are primarily thought of as Central or South American residents, such as the golden-olive or pale-billed woodpecker. Others will question why the line was not drawn farther south to encompass the ranges of species that share some affinities with northern relatives, one obvious example being Strickland's woodpecker, a Mexican endemic that was only recently designated as distinct from the Arizona woodpecker. The truth is, there is no one incontestable definition of North America. What really matters is that we move beyond an outdated allegiance to political boundaries and try to see the map as nature would draw it.
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