Each of North America's species is given a full page description of its natural history and conservation in an informal style, including names and classification, conservation status, a color photo, and global distribution map. Each species is accompanied by a humorous illustration. The overall theme of the book, carried through each species account, is conservation. The author describes this as 'The first in a series of books describing the Earth's elements of biodiversity.' A basic premise is that each element (or species) can be used to tell a story, where each story can reveal the tricks used by birds to survive, describe real problems faced by birds, analyze conservation issues, or illustrate ecological characteristics or something else that applies to – or is unique about – the species. This book also provides a way of remembering and distinguishing each species. Scientific, English, French, and Mexican Spanish names are given.
"This ain’t Sibley. The first volume of Robert Alvo’s new series Being a Bird in North America North of Mexico includes species accounts and range maps and photographs alongside its lively cartoon-like illustrations, but as the title tells you right off the bat, this is a book less about watching birds than about being one. Instead of identification, Alvo focuses on behavior and conservation, topics he covers with flair and humor; the result is something different in the market serving older kids and adult beginning birders, and a useful addition to school and nature center libraries. [...] Being a Bird will appeal particularly to young teens and bright pre-teens in the phase of life where a random encounter with a bit of fascinating trivia can spark an obsession or even a career, and to adults lucky enough to have never outgrown that phase. As the source of our future ornithologists, conservationists, and activists, this audience needs and deserves books like this, pitched just to them. [...] the book is a shining example of self-publishing done right. Targeted to a specific audience and produced with sturdy, high-quality materials, Being a Bird is clearly a labor of love and the product of considerable thought about what the author wanted to achieve. [...]"
– Carrie Laben, ABA Blog, April 18, 2017
"My long-time friend and former colleague, conservation biologist (and now writer) Rob Alvo, has conceived, written, and assembled an outstanding book! This is not your standard field guide, although for every species covered in Volume 1 there are one or more photographs, a global range map (useful but absent in other North American bird books), and taxonomic information including English and French common names. But what sets this aside from other bird books is the entertaining cartoon for every species, a page of interesting facts, and detailed conservation information. I am a conservation biologist, lifelong birder, and avid consumer of bird and natural history books, but I learned new and fascinating facts about each species in Rob's well-researched species accounts. Particularly useful is the conservation information presented for each species, thanks to Rob's research and his use of NatureServe data and information. I recommend this book without hesitation to birders and non-birders alike, and I can hardly wait for the next volume in the series. Keep this book on your bedside table and read a few species accounts every evening for a very enjoyable end to one's day."
– Larry Master, retired long-term Chief Zoologist of NatureServe
"Being A Bird in North America was an incredible book. Its vocabulary was very comprehensible (I am only twelve) and I could figure out any words I couldn't understand. The cartoons are not only funny, but also made me able to picture what the words said. In fact, my younger brother, who is only seven, could understand the information thanks to the cartoons! Yes, it was that comprehensible. The global maps and the names in French and Spanish would definitely help any birder traveling. The information was accurate, from taxonomy to behaviour and all in between, and the conservation status rankings helped me really understand how threatened species were. And the organization was very logical, not scattered counterintuitively. It is NOT a field guide, and it doesn't function in the same way, but it offers quite a lot of information that field guides don't have, such as facts about the birds' life history, or habits that aren't often mentioned in field guides because they don't help with identification. For that reason it is a book that everyone, from kids to experienced birders, can admire. All in all, Rob Alvo's new book is an incredible, original creation that is the very best of its kind, and I very highly recommend it as a funny, informative read."
– A young birder
"Rob Alvo has done a remarkable job with this book. A unique perspective for looking at birds of North America; a little humor, science and concern for the problems and conservation of some of nature's most beautiful creatures. I am really pleased to have this volume in my reference library. Extremely well done and readable for a variety of age groups, including non-birders."
– Bryan J. Smith
"There are a plethora of identification guides for North American birds, but this stands out as being a biology and conservation guide. It's not really for ID, but it is for enjoyable and educational reading. The array of facts presented for species after species serve as a primer for many aspects of ornithology. Throughout the book we learn of conservation issues and some of the ways they are being handled. And the cartoons are appropriate and a lot of fun. Take it off the shelf; this is a book meant for reading!I am a professional biologist, and I contributed quite a few photos for the book, so I have followed its progress with interest since it was a bright idea of Rob Alvo's. It was well worth the wait, and I look forward to another volume."
– Dennis Paulson
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