CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Jim Rising and Trudy Rising.
Paintings by Kathryn De Vos Miller.

Montreal, Tundra Books, c1982.
Distributed by Collins.
176pp, cloth, $39.95.
ISBN 0-88776-124-0.

Reviewed by Elinor Kelly.

Volume 11 Number 1.
1983 January.

This large and handsome book, typical of fine productions from Tundra, is not just exclusively a picture album, a bird guide, or a check list. The subject is songbirds, a group of landbirds that has un-webbed toes for perching, produces helpless babies, and has extra muscles to control voice production and includes un-tuneful members such as crows and house sparrows.

The authors are both zoologists. Their scientific writing is enhanced by the numerous paintings in full-colour by Kathryn De Vos Miller, who is a wildlife artist living in Toronto and who has illustrated two other books by Trudy Rising.

The great feature of the book is the wealth of the latest scientific knowledge about bird habits and behaviour. This is wide-ranging and- of great benefit with many cross-references to assist the reader. Social mimicry, beaks, bird feeders, orientation and navigation, parasitism, song dialects—these are a sample of the various topics discussed.

Canadian Songbirds has three parts. The first is a biological introduction to songbirds. Then comes an account of their annual cycle: mating, nesting, migration, and so on. The third part covers families of North American songbirds. After a general discussion, a sample or samples are chosen and described, one bird per page with a painting, a range map, vital statistics, Latin and French name, and a half a page of descriptive text.

The first family is the tyrant flycatcher. We soon learn that these are not true songbirds. There is a small illustration of the scissor-tailed flycatcher, which is not a Canadian bird at all and whose very rare sightings in Canada cause a great flurry in birdwatching circles, as one did this October. Thus, the authors do not adhere strictly to the chosen limits of their title as to species or range. If it is a fault, it is a generous one. The sample flycatcher chosen for full treatment is the eastern kingbird. Other examples are mentioned, but one must go to other bird guides for full treatment. In the warbler section, seven different birds are fully covered, and in the sparrow, there are eight. Thus, only some songbirds are treated fully, but many more are mentioned, and many other birds not songbirds are discussed and illustrated.

Some criticism may be made of the colours in the pictures. For example, the meadowlark seems pale to me. But, on the whole, they are very successful for their purpose.

Canadian Songbirds is both attractive and very useful and quite well worth the price of almost $40. It will make a splendid gift book and will be a valuable scientific acquisition in any library for the student and the general reader.

Elinor Kelly, Port Hope, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works