Six books for bird nerds and nature lovers

Conversations with Birds

By Priyanka Kumar

(Milkweed Editions; 296 pages; $26)

In 20 vignettes and essays, Priyanka Kumar lovingly recounts how encounters with birds shaped her perspective on life, family and nature, bridging the gap between the mountains of her childhood in India and her adult wanderings in California and New Mexico. A spark was Kumar’s chance sighting of a “mango-colored bird” – a western tanager – which inspires her to “come alive” during a near-death experience; Your powerful thoughts take off from there. Her lyrics are filled with beauty, but also tell of the destruction of the interconnected ecosystems that support birds and humans. “Sometimes it just takes the right bird to wake us up,” she writes.

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Enter the burning world fearlessly

By Barry Lopez

(Random House; 352 pages; $28)

Birds flit through this posthumous collection of essays from a giant of natural literature, but its real theme is the value and urgency of closely observing the world around us. “Perhaps the first rule of anything we do is pay attention,” Lopez muses. “Maybe the second to be patient.” A bird watcher looking for words to live by might be worse off.

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Brown Pelican

By Rien Fertel

(LSU Press; 112 pages; $22)

Although the brown pelican is the star of one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories, today the iconic species is once again under threat. Short enough to finish at cruising altitude, but meaty enough to chew on long after, Brown Pelican is a compelling story of mankind’s complicated, sometimes shameful, relationship with a remarkable species.

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Home on a Unruly Planet: Finding Sanctuary on a Changed Earth

By Madeline Ostrander

(Henry Holt & Company; 352 pages; $29)

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This is a book for people who love birds

By Danielle Belleny/Illustrated by Stephanie Singleton

(Adult Running Press; 152 pages; $16)

Prefer to laugh at bird banter and fun facts? Get Danielle Belleny’s introduction to birds and birdwatching. Perfect for someone new to birds, Belleny, co-founder of Black Birders Week, charmingly guides you through the biology, anatomy and culture of birding. The writing is full of clever witticisms and offbeat perspectives, drawing on an in-depth knowledge of the modern birding scene.

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Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in the Forests of North America

By Lyndsie Bourgon

(Little Brown; 288 pages; $28)

This gripping detective story and massive piece of journalistic work follows sequoia poachers and the park rangers who try to track them down. By telling the story of a gang of tree poachers living outside of Redwood National Park, Bourgon describes the poverty and social problems that corporate deforestation leaves in its wake. The solution, she argues, is to invest in local communities to take care of the forests they know.

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