Some 900 species of birds are known from North America, an avifauna made up primarily of native year-round residents and seasonal migrants, modestly enhanced by introduced exotics and neighboring vagrants. Bird is the Word is an unequaled compilation of the names of almost 800 of those birds and the record of how, when, where, and by whom those names were created and drawn into the history and science of the continent's avifauna. The names of record date from the early years of European discovery, exploration, and settlement of Middle and North America through the emergence and evolution of science during the 18th and early 19th centuries, the enhanced purposeful search for and documentation of new species during the 19th century, and the consolidation of the expanded record during the 20th century.
Part I of Bird is the Word describes the scope, structure, and content of the book, focusing on an introduction to avian taxonomy, a listing of the avian orders that are represented in North America and its environs, and insights into the different categories or groups of names that are in use throughout the North American orders. Part II, organized by order, family, genus, and species — and making up most of the book — is devoted to the names of the individual species and the historical and/or cultural context of those names. Each species is introduced by its common name and Linnaean name and pronunciation, and accompanying information provides historical insight into the discovery and naming of the species, explanations of the Linnaean name, and other names for the species – French names, Spanish names, British names, Inuit/Eskimo names, and Other, or colloquial, names. A final chapter identifies and describes nine species or subspecies of birds that have become extinct since colonial times. Numerous sidebars are present throughout Part II to expand upon specific matters of interest. Part III of the book includes three appendixes, one providing a list of names for gatherings of different species of birds, a second providing a glossary of words used in the book, and a third that introduces the reader to more than a hundred naturalists and other persons who participated in the search for, finding, recording, naming, describing, or illustrating of birds of record for North America.
Bird is the Word is a rich and readily accessible collection of information about finding and naming the birds of North America. It is much more than a reference book; it is a journey of discovery that will enrich the reader's birding experience.