A Review of
Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight.
Paperback: Princeton UP, 2005 [Reprinted 2010].
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Reviewed by Chris Smith.
I have been a bird watcher all my life; my mom has a deep love for birds and when I was a boy, she was always pointing out different kinds of birds to me. We were never birders in the sense of going on bird watching tours or traveling specifically to see particular birds, but with living on the East Coast while most of our extended family was in the mid-west, we did travel quite a bit – even driving from coast-to-coast in the summer of 1980 – and wherever we went, we were always on the lookout for birds. Given this informal schooling in birdwatching, there are many birds that I can identity at a glance. However, I have always struggled to distinguish various types of hawks and other raptors when we see them soaring through the air. I can say, generally, “That’s a hawk,” but rarely can identify the bird with any more specificity than that.
Thus, I was delighted to stumble upon Jerry Liguori’s superb and helpful book Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight (now available in a new reprint from Princeton University Press). Although a relatively slim volume, and quite specific in the content on which it focuses, it is a profound and amazing work, especially when one considers that the author has taken all the photographs in the book himself over the course of two decades, collecting shots of all the major raptors in a number of key angles that are crucial for distinguishing species.
The book begins with a foreword from noted naturalist David Sibley, himself the author of a fine bird guide, which is followed by a helpful introduction from the author, which frames the work and helps the reader understand the project that he is undertaking here. For instance, he emphasizes that identifying specific birds in flight is much different than identifying birds in pictures. He also provides a brief glossary of the – mostly anatomical – terms that he will use over the course of the book. He also provides a short introduction to hawk migration, which is useful for identifying times and places where hawks and other raptors are seen in great numbers. The remainder of the book is divided into five sections, each focusing on a related group of species (Accipiters, Northern Harrier, Buteos, Falcons and Vultures/Ospreys/Eagles). Each chapter offers some basic introductory materials on that group’s migration and plumage, followed by a host of pictures that help us distinguish between the various species in flight.
This is an extraordinary book, and one that will undoubtedly be of much use in developing my skills – and those of my children – as a birdwatcher and naturalist. I highly recommend it for others who have a passion for birds and nature.