#438 – A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America, 2nd Edition by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill & John Sill

birdsA Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America, 2nd Edition

by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill & John Sill

John Sill, illustrator

Peachtree Publishers


Website:  Bird enthusiasts will love this revised edition of the feather-brained field guide parody! Birders and just about anyone who likes birds will delight in this field guide parody. Thirty-two fabulous new species are depicted in this volume, which features tongue-in-cheek descriptions, observation hints, and range maps, as well as remarkable full-color illustrations. The reader will never look at our feathered friends in the same way after encountering these frequent flyers.

Opening:  INTRODUCTION – Now, twenty-five years later, we are pleased to say that the birds described in this updated volume are not only accurate, but also artfully arranged and sufficiently ambivalent. . . . We are not too proud to admit that mistakes made in the first edition were the editor’s fault.

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About the Field Guide:  This field guide presents various birds one will rarely see unless one is at the right place and at the right time. Divided into colorful sections, this bird field guide becomes an easy reference. For example, if looking for the Green Plumivore you would naturally look in the green section, as there is no plum section. Likewise, the Middle and Least Yellowlegs are in the Aqua section.

For each of these uniquely little-known birds, you will learn several until-now-known unknown facts. This includes—when known—geographic location, feeding and courtship habits, special skills, and fun facts. The illustrator has depicted—in full-color—a detailed image of each bird. There is an exclusive essay entitled, Are There Any More Bird Species to Discover?

The authors have included a form to fill out should you see an undocumented little-known or seldom-seen bird. The glossary makes normal stuffy birder terms understandable and sometimes just plain fun. Oh, there is a reference list of helpful books for further reading, but A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America really should suffice.

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What I Thought:  A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America is a fantastic bird book. I am not much “into” birds, yet several caught my attention. One of those is the Eastern Spider Spitter, which I hope like to live indoors. I do not like spiders and this bird, this wonderfully yellow shaded bird with the perfectly round beak, is the spider’s worst enemy. The Eastern Spider Spitter

“spews a spate of speedy, spherical, spinning spitballs toward spectacularly speckled spiders, slightly smaller (size-wise) than scorpions, stoneflies, and stink bugs.”

I love this bird’s chubby little cheeks. How does one locate the Eastern Spider Spitter? The authors state the Spitter is easy to spot,

 “since the Spider Spitters spew spent spit, splattering spongy spray spots all over the place.”

A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America is chock-full of spectacular birds for any occasion. Consider hunting season. I am not an advocate of this activity and never will be. I also am not suggesting this to anyone. Yet, the Long-Range Duck Target is the perfect bird for hunters to spot, while bird watching. This beautiful bird has a green crown and a bright yellow beak. It sits symmetrically still in the water, when it lands for a drink.

The spectacular Long-Range Target Duck, best seen as it flies to its top altitude of 153 feet and fully spans its wings, presents a perfectly dead-center circular target. One subspecies makes lower Canada its nest. The Canadian bird is identical to its southern cousin, until the wings spread apart to reveal a bright red spot dead center in the bird’s belly eyespot.

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I like two other rare birds quite a bit. With the holiday season approaching and snow soon falling in heaps, the time will be right to spot the Skia and the Circular Dove. The Circular Dove looks similar to a turkey, which makes me think of Thanksgiving. This tan and brown dove’s sex is determined by its legs. The male has a longer let leg, the female a longer right leg. Males walk/fly clockwise and females counter-clockwise. The mating season is difficult to determine. The western species fly in wider circles than its eastern counterbird. Each species flies up and down its respective coast in circles, occasionally stopping to throw-up (no, I just made that up).

Finally, the Skia is the perfect bird for wintertime bird watching. You will find this gorgeous blue trimmed bird, with a nice blue “cap” on its head, enjoying the season within a short distance from mountains and tall hills. The Skia was an all (North) American bird until recently when it isolated into subspecies. The most remarkable feature of the Skia—and you will know you have seen a Skia by this feature alone—are their feet.

The northeastern Skia has the longest feet, approximately six times the length of its leg, and are now Nordic Skia. The northwestern birds, with feet a bit less than four times the length of its leg, are the Alpine Skia. Finally, the southern birds, known as Water Skia, fly near lakes and bays. Their feet, similar to their Alpine counter-birds, have one significant difference: the “heel” curves down to help the bird glide better. Skia are easy to identify by their footprint.

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A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America is hilarious, but often in a subtle and subdued way. I love the irony some birds carry and the outright outlandishness other’s possess. This is a great book for anyone who loves birds and bird watching. In my house, the biggest and nearly constant bird watchers are my two kitties, and even though one loves to bite book covers, these felines view reading as over-rated.

The original guide first came out 25 years ago. I suspect this guide will not update for another 25 years. Then again, it took the Sills some time—I am not sure how much, but at least some—to locate and document these rare birds of North America. If you like to watch or find birds, in the great outdoors or on Animal Planet, this is the bird guide for you. I have found this guide indispensable in my daily life and you will too. Kids, this is the best first guide you can get. Scouts may want to check with their leaders first (some–jealous–experts call the Sills birdbrains).


A Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America, 2nd Edition

by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill & John Sill    website    blog    facebook    twitter

John Sill, illustrator    website    blog    facebook    twitter

Peachtree Publishers    website    blog    facebook    twitter

Released August 1, 2013

ISBN:  978-1-56145-728-1

112 pages

Ages 8 and up


© 2013 by Peachtree Publishers, used with permission

Text copyright © 2013 by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill & John Sill

Illustrations © 2013 by John Sill



seldom seen birds


18 thoughts on “#438 – A Field Guide to Little Known & Seldom-Seen Birds of North America, 2nd Edition by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill & John Sill

  1. Pingback: #629 – About Parrots: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill & John Sill | Kid Lit Reviews

  2. Pingback: Collared doves on my balcony | Dear Kitty. Some blog

    • And a boy smart enough to be the only one to realize these birds are fakes. A dog realized it too! (Rhythm has seen Laughing Roadrunner looking at them through their window.)

      Erik, you, with your sense of humor, which I am suspecting more and more may be like my own, would love this book. You like the Long-Range Target Duck you’d probably like the Gila Gull (a prehistoric bird that survived) and the Four-Toed, no wait, they changed that. The Multi-Toed Snorkel Bill (spends most of its time underwater using its vertical bill to breathe), and maybe even the Military Warbler. That one has an observation hint, which I will share with you:

      “The Military Warbler is so well camouflaged that it cannot readily be seen. The fact that one cannot see the bird is sufficient proof to list it.”

      Get the book. You’ll like it. 😀 ❗


  3. I love to connect with the birds in my yard and I have such fun trying to identify different birds. I think this sounds like a fabulous book to help kids and adults learn more about nature. Great review! The pictures look terrific. 🙂


    • Oddly, Jessica, I think you are correct. This crazy non-bird bird book could definitely inspire someone to learn about the real birds, if for no other reason than to never get bamboozled again by the Sills, who have now published three editions of this book. The pictures look terrific indeed. All are paintings John Sill created as they envisioned their crazy subspecies of real birds. He is an expert at wildlife paintings, even imaginary wildlife. If you love birds and have a sense of humor you have all that is needed to enjoy this book. 🙂


  4. Isn’t nature grand? I’ve become a bird watcher only because there are so many to watch in my neck of the woods. There’s no better music than hearing the birds sing at the crack of dawn. I’m not sure how many unusual ones there are, but it’d be fun to find out. Always nice to know what you’re looking at. You may have talked me in to buying this one!


    • OH, if you like birds singing, there is one in the book that is always on key and its song will tell you if male or female. It is called the Small Flycatcher. The male sings, ‘do-re-mi-fa-sol-la’ and the female sings, ‘mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do.’ If you are really lucky, during mating season, you might here ‘do-re-me-fa-sol-la-ti-do.’ ti-do!

      I really do not know how many unusual birds there are, but I am sure there are a few, just none of them are in this fake bird book. 😀


  5. hmmm. very interesting. I don’t believe that I have ever spotted any of these birds around here. We do have some unusual ones thought. Like the Laughing Roadrunner who stands on our porch and laughs hysterically at us through the window. Just not right. I will most definitely be looking for this book. Thanks!


    • When you get the book, and I am not joshing you, there are instructions on how to report a new little-known and seldom-seen bird if you come across one.

      I would say a Laughing Roadrunner would be little-known, but can’t be seldom-seen, so I don’t know if it would qualify. Roadrunners just run and run and beep-beep. So the odds that it has been the same laughing roadrunner is slim. I am guessing you have been seeing a group of them as they speed down your street, stopping one-at-a-time for a laugh break at your expense, I mean at your house. So the question remains, what is so funny at your house?


  6. I’ve never heard of these birds, but they are intriguing. The book looks like a fun read and educational too.


    • Diane, my friend, you live where there is a lot of snow, right? Yet you have never seen even one Skia bird? Either the Alpine Skia or the Nordic Skia? These two birds, according to the book,

      “Concentrations seem to occur in Calgary, ALBERTA, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Lake Placid, New York.”

      This is a CANADIAN BIRD! All of the creatures you have in your magic garden, yet not one Skia bird. Are you sure? Check the small bumps of snow and little snowy hills for the bird this winter. It might even be carrying a pole in each claw. (that is my assumption).

      In the summer, or somewhere always warm, you might have seen a Water Skia. If you think you have, I have a White-Lined Roadrunnner for sale. No, all birds are fake. Exceptionally good fakes, according to the comments. 🙂


  7. What an interesting book, although I’m still not 100% clear; is it for real? I believe these birds are real, but the Long-range target duck seems almost unbelievable. Either way I think it sounds like a fun book, and the snippets you mentioned would be really fun to read! My parents love to bird watch and I think they’d like this book. Thanks for the great review.

    Paul R. Hewlett


    • Paul, when I first saw this I couldn’t figure out why it would be middle grade fare. Here’s why: not one bird is real. The birds are similar to real birds. For example, the roadrunner is a real bird, but the white-lined roadrunner is fake. Here is part of the white-lined roadrunner’s description:

      “. . . this fairly large terrestrial bird is rapidly extending its range. Although widespread, its numbers remain low because of high mortality. It runs up to 35 mph, but this, unfortunately, is below the minimum allowable speed in its habitat. At present, populations are restricted to principal federal transportation corridors. Feet have a unique radial tread pattern. Environmental noise can obscure the call, which is an occasional ‘beep-beep.’ SPECIALIZED EQUIPMENT – Road Atlas”

      Then it goes on to say a new subspecies was discovered on state and county roads; similar in appearance to white-lined roadrunner, except it has a solid yellow line down its back. Yeah, they are all fake, but some are hilarious and others make you groan, but all are funny. Boys will love this book. 😀


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