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Randy's Guide to the Birds of North America

I received an email from my brother Randy, in which he told me that a "blackbird" was flying repeatedly into the window of his office. This provided a certain obvious entertainment value, and it gave him an opportunity to one-up the "bird-brains" in his family who, try as they might, were unlikely to see a bird do anything more interesting than standing around on a branch pathetically attempting to outsing another bird.

When I wrote back to ask what kind of "blackbird" it was, Randy replied (in part) with this:

No, I'm pretty sure it is black, and relatively certain that it is a bird, so it must be a blackbird. Of course, that shows the level of birding sophistication I have. Under my premise, there would be only a dozen or so birds in the world (blackbirds, bluebirds, yellowbirds, etc.). Such an approach certainly would simplify things and allow you birders to get your life list finished in a long weekend so you can come inside and watch sports like God intended ...

The germ of an idea was born! Why not a bird guide for the masses? Those for whom birding ranks just below watching paint dry on the excitement-o-meter. Those who don't find birds any more interesting than bugs, fast food packaging, or car insurance commercials.

So here it is ... the bird guide for the rest of 'em. It's only a matter of time, anyway, before DNA testing reveals that there are only ten or twelve distinct bird species in the world. What better way to classify them, then, than by color. Everyone knows what a Blackbird is: it's a black bird. It's simple, really, and it's nothing less than scandalous that guys like Roger Tory Peterson, David Sibley, and Kenn Kaufman have made millions selling confusing "Field Guides" to hundreds of indistinguishable birds to a seemingly insatiable group of monomanical geriatrics. Let this be the beginning of the end of their hegemony.

SLB, May 2007

 

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