Be Your Own Birder

Learn Absolutely Everything About Penguins

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With their tuxedo-like plumage, upright posture, quirky habits and amazing lives, penguins are beloved – but how much do you really know about them? Any questions you may have – about population, habitat, nesting, reproduction, diet, vocalizations, conservation and more – are answered in one convenient place, the aptly named Penguin-Pedia by David Salomon. If you love these birds, you’re sure to love this book (and note that $.50 of every book sale goes to support the Dallas Zoo and its resident African penguins!).

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins – Photo by Christopher Michel

Title: Penguin-Pedia
Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-1-61254-015-3

Anyone with an interest in penguins has to add Penguin-Pedia to their birding library, because without it they would be missing a treasure trove of detailed information, stunning photos and intimate insights about these charismatic birds. Easily organized and exceptionally readable, this book is a one-stop-shop for the penguin-a-holic.

David Salomon spent more two years traveling the world to see and photograph every penguin species and shares his knowledge, insights and expertise in this phenomenal encyclopedia of penguin lore. Each of the world’s seventeen penguin species is comprehensively covered, including:

  • Range, habitat and colony locations
  • Life expectancy and breeding
  • Subspecies
  • Overall appearance
  • Foraging behaviors and diet
  • Population trends
  • Behavioral characteristics
  • Threats, hazards and conservation

Salomon adds his personal observations to each species as well. These insights enhance the book with a personal touch, giving readers a deeper understanding of the birds, the conditions they live in and the dedication necessary to see them in person.

Each profile is augmented with multiple photos, all of which have been taken by Salomon. The book contains more than 300 crisp, detailed photographs, including molting birds and a variety of behaviors such as feeding, swimming, courting and nesting, making this book a visual treat for penguin-lovers as well as a detailed informational resource.

Penguin-Pedia goes far beyond individual accounts of species, however. The book begins with a penguin overview, including their evolution, prehistoric ancestors and history of human interaction. The book then closes with a discussion of penguin anatomy and physical characteristics, including a labeled photo of penguin body parts (page 246). A glossary of penguin vocabulary is also available, as well as a detailed bibliography for readers who want to delve deeper into penguin lore.

One of the richest features of Penguin-Pedia, however, is not the sheer information it provides, but how it inspires readers to seek out penguins on their own. Salomon is well aware of the effort and expense required to see every penguin species in the wild, and he shares his travel tips in several ways. A basic map of penguin territories is included inside the front cover, and detailed suggestions for where to find a penguin are featured on pages 7-11, with each trip suggestion accompanied by a map and cost estimate. While those trip ideas are assuming a departure from the United States, the insights he provides are equally valuable no matter where birders originate from. Furthermore, a detailed list of where to see captive penguins, as well as a list of wild penguins organized by country with general population numbers for each location can help readers plan their own travels (pages 259-276).

In his quest to study each species, Salomon faced ice-bound boats, shifting bird ranges and unpredictable sightings, as well as the heartache of witnessing the threats penguins face, including starvation, oil spills and high chick mortality. Along the way, however, he also discovered these birds’ enchanting personalities, irreverent quirks and unique features that endear them to millions of birders and nature lovers, and he weaves both into an amazingly informative yet conversational volume. As Salomon says, “Knowledge is a prerequisite for help. Several [penguin] species are in a dire state, and if we want to help them, we first must educate ourselves and learn who these penguins are, what they do, and why they are suffering.” Penguin-Pedia does exactly that, and with that knowledge, every reader can make a difference to preserve penguins so future generations can do more than just read about them.

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