Clever Guides to Dumb Birds of North America and the Whole World

Books Featured Reviews

If you’ve got an interest in birds but also have an irreverent and slightly childish sense of humor (don’t we all?), a new book and calendar are now available to you.

Building on the success of his first book in the series—The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America—author and illustrator Matt Kracht has now made that book into a daily calendar, with one page a day of a dumb bird profile, birding instructions, or tips on gear to use while birding for dumb birds. There are all kinds of facts and information, and you’re sure to get a chuckle. It’s a great way to start your day.

More newsworthy is the fact that he has a sequel to his first book called The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of the Whole Stupid World. Because North America wasn’t ambitious enough. Birds are easy targets to make fun of, but also so, so easy to appreciate and wonder at, so Kracht’s job here was probably excessively enjoyable (though I’ll bet he said it was annoying). An excerpt from the front cover flap:

If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that birds are the absolute worst. Luckily, professional birding amateur Matt Kracht is here to help us avoid them with annoyed, yet practical, tips for identifying the stupidest birds from around the world.

The books and calendar are filled with nice and accurate drawings of the birds. They look like they’re done in colored pencil, but the book says they’re ink. Regardless, along with this truly skilled art (no joke) is information about each bird, its proper name, and its fun “dumb bird” name, which has been crafted by the author. The bird’s location on the planet is shown, and there are all kinds of factual facts mixed in among the more humorous description. Imagine if your “knows nothing about birds” friend—with a proper bird guide on her lap—was complaining about specific types of birds, and that’s what you get from this book.

Here are a few examples. The Cape Sugarbird is referred to as the Crap Sugarbird, and its long tail and beak are described as a funny thing to behold but, oh yeah, they have specific uses too and those uses are… (See the book for the answer!) The Lilac-Breasted Roller is referred to as the Lilac-Breasted Tosser, and pegged as a show-off bird with a huge ego. The Boreal Chickadee is the Boring Chickadee, of course, because it’s nonmigratory and leads a boring life. In Canada.

Warning: There are many swear words in this book, so be aware of that before gifting it. I’ve excluded any from my examples above to keep this review more family-friendly.

All told with humor, the book also includes sections on areas of the world where birds are found (spoiler: they’re found everywhere, but the book does leave out Antarctica, as far as I can tell), instructions on how to identify birds, birds throughout history, and tips for how to get along with birds, how to draw birds, etc. This is all in addition to the long catalogue of birds where the author picks them apart, one by one. Though there are plenty of facts in this book, it’s at least 50% humor, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

I’m incredibly unhappy that this book has fallen in my lap. See, I’m trying to downsize, getting rid of things that don’t spark joy and all that, so we can live in a smaller space once the kids have flown the coop. So when new books come into my life that I want to keep, it kind of pisses me off. But I think the author would appreciate me sharing in his misery, so this is one book I’ll be holding onto. Fortunately, the calendar will get used up over the next year, then used as scratch paper, and then recycled and sent out of my life. As nature intended.

Whether you are looking for a reference book that will make you chuckle for years, or you want a year of learning, information, and fantastic bird art that will only stay with you for a moment (AKA “a year”), Matt Kracht has you covered with the format that works best for you. You either get something that sits on your shelf, taunting you, or something that does double duty, providing a stack of hundreds of pieces of scratch paper after the year is up so that you can enjoy the pages a second time. If you’re looking for a definitive bird guide, neither of these will do of course, but if you’re looking for a laugh, some facts, and an introduction to plenty a bird that you didn’t know existed, this series of books and the calendar are sure to please.

Note: I received samples for review purposes. All love of passerines and others is all my own.

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