Book review: Slow Birding by Joan E. Strassman

THE latest author to have a pop at twitching is American animal behaviour expert Joan E. Strassman whose latest book has the natty title, Slow Birding.

She writes: "All too often, birding is something done racing around in automobiles, stopping for moments to pick up a species here and there, then driving on. 

"I call it 'motor birding', the birding equivalent of eating fast food."

She continues: "What if, instead, we stayed close to home and watched the birds that intersect our lives? 

"What if we learned more about our birds, building our knowledge more slowly through daily observation? 

"It may take some pratice to get  more out of local birds. It may be hard at first to learn to watch birds instead of ticking them off a list. 

"This book will help." 

Ms Strassman doubtless has a point - but what a pity she makes it so self-righteously.

It is surely not a question of either/or. Most, if not all, twitchers are also dedicated students of the birdlife on their own patch. But they also like to enrich their birding experience by travelling beyond their patch to see new species. What is wrong with that?

Subtitled The Art and Science of Enjoying The Birds in Your Own Backyard, the author's focus naturally falls on American species including:  

* Blue jay

* American robin (dubbed the 'earthworm whisperer')

* House wren

* Dark-eyed juneo

* Northern flicker

* Cooper's hawk

* Cedar waxwing

* Northern cardinal

* Northern mockingbird

* Yellow-rumped warbler

* White-throated sparrow

* American coot

* Snow goose

However, there are also chapters on two birds more familiar to birders on this side of the Atlantic - European starling and house sparrow.

Slow Birding ( published by TarcherPerigee books)  is available in hardback, at £24, via Amazon UK.

  • Hi

    let's hope the inside is more accurate and appealing than the illustrations on the cover

    I checked out some other reviews and read some sections- it's basically good stuff  - species wise-  that any observant birder here has noticed about our own spp. We have books like the Poyser series and plenty of monographs that venture into the same areas:)

    Sitting in a hide at an RSPB ( OTHER society hides are available) reserve would yield similar info :) American hides in my experience are fewer and farther between- simply because they have a bigger country with bigger reserves:)

    The author  seems to suggest note-taking.

    As for sketching-  maybe I should get around to  trying  that :)


    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • I haven't read the book and don't intend to because of the title - it put me off. I thought is this going to be another of those diary/journaling type books that seem to be the topic of the day. Like goosander says it comes across as self-righteous. Then I received the newsletter from and thought I shouldn't 'judge the book by its cover'. He's got a point.
    £24 for a book that focuses on American species it quite a lot to enjoy the birds visiting my garden.
  • I read the review on ornithology- good points but I see a British birder has commented on the Cardinal example given:


    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box