To most observers, molt seems an overwhelming subject. But birders use many aspects of molt more than they realize--to distinguish juvenile birds from adults, to pick out an individual hummingbird from among dozens visiting a feeder, and much more. And for those whose interest goes beyond simply identifying birds, questions such as What triggers molt to start? How fast do feathers grow? and How long do they last? offer a fascinating window into the lives of birds. Put plainly, molt relates in some way to everything a bird does, including where it lives, what it eats, and how far it migrates.
Here, for the first time, molt is presented for the nonscientist. Molt is very orderly and built on only four underlying strategies: Simple Basic, Complex Basic, Simple Alternate, and Complex Alternate. This book clearly lays out these strategies, and the more than 270 photographs help make the subject accessible. Each family of birds has its own account, starting with an overview of factors such as biogeography, taxonomy, habitat, and migration. Next come the molting strategy or strategies of the family, as well as when and where the different molts occur. In-depth explanations usually follow, often broken down into one or more sections that cover the particular molts and relate them to aspects of life history and ancestry. Additional topics include case studies, groups of particular interest, and related subjects.
"[...] As Howell writes, “paying attention to molt can also help you get more out of your birding” – it can provide insight into behavior, add value to your field notes, and even aid in identification. And now birders have the definitive guide to this process in Molt in North American Birds. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginning or casual birders, but for those serious about the study of birds, it will be indispensable."
- Grant McCreary (09-09-2010), read the full review at The Birder's Library