Be Your Own Birder

Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me?

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  • Author: Mike O’Connor
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 185

Be Your Own Birder’s Thoughts

Every birder has questions they long to ask but instead keep to themselves because the questions seem too common, too silly, or too easy to ask for help. Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? has the answers! Written in a friendly but authoritative tone, this book is a fun and informative read for birders of all experience levels, and every birder will have their craziest birding questions answered in its pages.

How much does it cost to run a heated bird bath? What bird can fly the soonest after it hatches? Has a New World species invaded England the way the English sparrow (house sparrow) has invaded North America?

The answer to these questions and 73 more are covered in this anthology of quirky Q-and-As from Bird Watcher’s General Store owner Mike O’Connor and a follow up to his first book, Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches? This book contains 76 questions and their well-researched, insightful answers, though anyone familiar with O’Connor’s weekly “Ask the Bird Folks” column in the Cape Codder newspaper will likely recognize much of the material. The book is a republication of many questions O’Connor has answered in his column, though some answers have been edited and updated to create a fun and informative collection of birding know-how, trivia, and cultural commentary, all with an avian twist.

O’Connor has a humorous, conversational style that offers exceptional information coupled with irreverent humor and self-deprecating anecdotes that make each answer relatable to every birder’s experiences. His friendly tone creates laugh out loud moments and imagery such as…

  • “When a flock of starlings hits a birdbath, it’s like starting a blender without the cover.” – Discussing different backyard bird bathing styles.
  • “What’s interesting about spoonbills is that, despite their apparent advantage, they rarely eat soup or even fish chowder.” – Exploring the foraging styles of roseate spoonbills.
  • “It’s a shocking red-orange, making the flycatcher look like a cross between a Scarlet Tanager and a traffic cone.” – Describing the plumage of the vermilion flycatcher.
  • “With a long beak in the front and feathers sticking out the back, its head looks like a pickaxe with eyes.” – Describing the bill shape and crest of the hoopoe.

With such colorful commentary, readers can’t help but smile not only at O’Connor’s clever writing, but at how apt it is to accurately describe the quirks all birders appreciate about their feathered friends. His humor can occasionally come across as abrasive, however, and some anecdotes do tend to drag a bit.

Yet this book is about more than making jokes or stringing together clever phrases. Each question – no matter how irreverent – is thoroughly answered with not only O’Connor’s personal expertise, but also with appropriate research where needed. The questions range from practical, useful queries like why do Carolina wrens sing in the fall and how to clean bird houses to interesting trivia such as how the northern cardinal gets its name and the history of the domestic chicken and why it isn’t listed in North American field guides. Of course, O’Connor does not shy away from some simply strange but fascinating inquiries, and readers will also learn why some birds may eat paint or what predators eat hummingbirds. With this wide mix of questions, birders of all avian interests will find answers they seek in Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? Unfortunately, the book does lack a list of references or resources for birders to answer any questions that may not be covered in its pages.

While readers who are devout fans of O’Connor’s regular column may find this book repetitive, it is a charming and hilarious read nonetheless, and a great addition to any birder’s reading list.

Worth Reading? Yes – 9.5/10!

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