Don’t know the blue jay from the titmouse, let alone how to spot the hooded bird? Good. The new bird book for beginners and experts alike.
The book is filled with not only descriptions and stories about the birds of North America, but also bird culture and tips. Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsobel recently spoke with Belleny about this.
Listen to their conversation
Kara Holsobel: Why don’t you want to write a bird guide?
Daniel Bellini: I started the book during the pandemic, and I was a little bored, frankly. But also, a lot of bird guides probably used terms or language that I think was geared more towards the birds themselves rather than a larger audience. I really wanted to keep people from worrying about not understanding something and being able to participate in it because they care.
Holsopple: The beginning of the book describes the history of birds, their bodies and behaviour, and then sort of moves into birdwatching and birdwatching culture. For example, you are explaining the tradition of enjoying a piece of pie after seeing a bird that you have not seen before. It’s called Lifer Pie. I’ve never heard of that before. I feel like you’re trying to bring people to this book.
Bellini: For people who are new to the world of birds, I want them to know that this is a hobby for them. They should not be excluded or discouraged from enjoying these birds, especially if they do not have the facts about them. This is part of becoming a bird: learn these things. You’ll be wrong sometimes, and that’s okay.
Even when I do bird-walking or guided walks, I like to sprinkle a few anecdotes around my book. Especially if there’s a younger audience, like kids who are outside, they’re going to say to me like, “Oh, I’ve never seen that bird before.” I’m like, “Oh, boy, you know what that means, right? We have to celebrate.” I usually just say you have to do the dancing. And they look really excited and adorable in it.
Holsobel: You also write about good places for bird watching and bird watching, maybe places you wouldn’t think of, like parking lots and cemeteries. I know you are famous for that. Where would you advise people to watch and enjoy birds?
Bellini: You can always start from your own place, wherever you are. This is the great thing about birds. They are literally everywhere. Even if you enjoy it online, this is definitely a place to start.
“There are birds everywhere. Just take a moment, slow down and just look.”
Car parking is a great place to go. I’ve met a lot of people, and just bird hunters in general – you always find the bird you’re looking for when you’re about to leave in the parking lot. So why not stay there and start there in the first place?
The tombs are one more. They are basically gardens, with a few extra features and often not many people there. So have a great time enjoying this place all to yourself. Just think outside the box, really. Anywhere – ditch drainage. You can just park on the side of the road and always be safe. But there are birds everywhere. Just take a moment, slow down and just look.
Holsopple: This is a bright, colorful book with illustrations by Stephanie Singleton. How did you choose the North American birds represented in the book that make up most of the work?
Bellini: It was very difficult. I definitely wanted to choose birds that had some very interesting life habits, and that’s where I started. But then I also wanted to get a good representative sample of the birds based on where you live – like seabirds, or grasshoppers, or some birds that live in certain places.
I wanted to get a good representation of North America itself and then highlight what’s great about each region so that people can get excited about something they can see.
Holsopple: Was this the kind of thing that was already in your head – that you already knew – or did you have to do a lot of research?
Bellini: I definitely had to do a lot of research. And a lot of times I stopped and said, “Oh, that’s really weird. I should put that in the book.” And there are often birds in which I have heard as in a passing conversation that they have an interesting breeding behavior or a pleasant call. I’m like, “Oh, I should trade this bird and put it in my book.”
They even told me that you can’t include all strangers. You have to put the normal stuff in there too. So I’ve included the basics, like cardinals and things you’d normally see in most of the United States or most of North America.
Holsobel: Do you have a favorite bird in the book, and why?
Bellini: Oh yes. drawn lesson It is definitely my favorite plane. It’s very popular in Texas, and a lot of people in Texas don’t even realize we have a Crayola crayon, a brightly colored bird in our backyards.
“A spark bird is basically a bird that kind of pulls you in on the birds… It kindles the spark of a desire to learn more about birds.”
It is a wonderful spark bird for many people. I know my parents, especially when they realized they had them in their backyard, they basically started to become pilots. It is just a bird that brings me so much joy.
Holsopple: What is a bird spark?
Bellini: A spark bird is basically a bird that draws you to the birds or at least draws your attention to the birds. It sparks a desire to learn more about birds.
Holsobel: The book is dedicated to your grandparents, Charles and Elizabeth Bourse, whom you write … “The young man showed me the wonders of nature.” Can you tell me a little bit about them and why this book is dedicated to them?
Bellini: Growing up, I definitely loved hanging out outside and my parents’ front yard and backyard didn’t cut it for me. Fortunately, my grandparents owned some properties outside of the Austin area. It’s a 14-acre farm, more or less, and I’d spend the summer there hanging out with them, learning how to take care of the animals, and just exploring their property. This is certainly where my love for nature arose, from learning through it and also learning through whatever the earth would tell me.
Holsobel: Were they pilots?
Bellini: No, not necessarily. But my grandfather knows a lot about birds, although he does not focus specifically on birds. However, he knows how much I care about birds. He would show me all the miniatures and only talk to me about the birds he saw passing through his property.
And of course he uses the old designation of these birds. So I’m trying to translate, “What’s a falcon sparrow again? Oh, I think he means an American falcon.” So we just have to work with each other and still be able to share a really interesting experience, even though we don’t have the same words or the same knowledge about birds.
Holsobel: What do the birds and the birds mean to you that you want to share with people?
Bellini: It’s really nice that birds themselves are a hobby that you can turn on and off whenever you want. I think that was definitely the attraction for me, and also that you can’t be bored in nature. There is always something interesting to look at in birds.
They have always been a symbol of freedom, I think across many cultures, especially the ability to have wings to fly away. Going elsewhere is a luxury, and I think many of us look to birds for that inspiration.
Danielle Bellini is a wildlife biologist and author of This Is A Book For People Who Love Birds. It is an organization participating in black bird week on Twitter.