Rare Birds of North America is a very interesting book, but it’s definitely for the advanced birder. The front matter, however, includes an excellent discussion of vagrancy and the question of how these birds show up here, through drift, disorientation, overshooting, dispersal… which should be of interest to all nature-literate folk. It’s a much-noted fact that most vagrant birds are juveniles; we humans have an awful lot to learn about migration (if we ever can), but it is safe to say that experience counts as well as innate ability for the birds.

I have seen 3 of the 262 bird species in this book in North America (I’ve run into a few of them in their home territories, but that’s not the point).

*There was the Gray Hooded Gull on the Coney Island beach in the summer of 2011. That’s one of precisely two recorded instances of this tropical bird in North America.

*The Western Reef Heron in Coney Island Creek in 2007 (the book says “Brooklyn Co.” but of course the Borough of Brooklyn is actually coterminous with Kings Co. Nobody pays for copy-editing anymore.). This species in particular has a sentimental value for me, since I was working as a cub reporter on Nantucket in 1983 and learning that the Front Page was correct about how newspapering makes you cynical as a philosophical dog, when another of these African herons showed up there; I didn’t cover the bird beat, then, but I did pen a snarky column about the faithless abandonment of the Herring Gull as result of this interloper’s celebrity. Someone was not amused, making it a job well done by my lights.

*Northern Lapwings: my U.S. view of them was on Nantucket in 2012, too late for a cited inclusion in this volume.

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