Imagine waking up on a spring morning. What is the first thing you hear besides your alarm? It will probably be a bird chirping or trilling. At first, it sounds pretty pleasant, maybe even lovely, but sometimes, the bird’s calls will become so annoying that you would want to send your cat outside just to shut it up. This is the feeling that I got when I read The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America by Matt Kracht – a parody of bird identification guides. This love-hate relationship rubbed off on me in a very good way as he provides information on and relates to the birds that he mocks.
The book is divided up into seven sections: how to use this book, the birds, tips for watching birds, four seasons of bird watching, extinct species, bird feeders, and keep your own bird journal. Each part is pretty informative, which balances out the belittling Kracht does against these flying creatures.
The biggest and funniest section is the one about the birds themselves. Kracht devotes two pages to each bird. These contain a funny name, a description, and a wonderfully rough sketched illustration of the bird done by the author himself. The love-hate relationship shines the most in the names that the author gives to them. Kracht states in the first section that he identifies the birds not based on physical traits, but on who they are on the inside. The best example of this is for the crows, in which he labels them as “Damn Crows”, and the description is mainly how they just go caw caw caw all day.
Another hilarious section of the book is the four seasons of bird watching. This features maps of North America during spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each map shows the reader where the birds reside. For instance, the stuck-up coastal birds will stay in the eastern United States, while those dangerous and evil loons mainly reside in Canada.
If I have to nitpick on one thing, it would be how the names that Kracht gives to the birds can become predictable pretty quickly. A lot of them involve butt, sh*t, and stupid, yet some of them are justified like with the Eastern and Western Kingbutts (Kingbirds) because of how they always have their backs straightened like a king looking down on his people.
All in all, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America by Matt Kracht is a love-hate letter to bird watching. It is clear that the author is extremely knowledgeable with the subject and genuinely wants to help other bird watchers (or birders if you want to be specific). At the same time, he knows that these animals can be extremely annoying in one way or another, so what better way to make fun of them than a parody on bird guides! I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy bird watching, those who would like to go into that hobby, and to those who have a lot of birds in their backyard.
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