Sheri Williamson is one of a handful of genuine experts on North American hummingbirds. She and husband Tom Wood managed the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve - perhaps the world's most famous place to watch hummingbirds - before founding the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory in 1996. SABO conducts a spectrum of field seminars on birds, butterflies, and plants, along with basic research. In addition to her formal training as a professional biologist and naturalist, Sheri is an active hummingbird bander and has a special interest in the relationships between hummingbirds and the plants with which they coevolved in North America. She's also an accomplished photographer and my friend.
Although this gem of a book certainly covers attracting and feeding hummingbirds, including extensive advice on selecting flowers appropriate for each region of the continent, its modest size and simple title don't hint at the true gift within: an ecologist's insight into the natural history of one of our most highly-specialized and most fascinating bird families. The first 14 pages of text and photos are a concise, well-balanced examination of how hummingbirds fit into their environment, written for neither children nor scientists, but for the inquisitive layman. Sheri is a masterful educator, and here the lesson is about her favorite subjects. I'd buy the book for what I learned from the first chapter alone - I kept thinking, "Gee, I wish I'd written that for the website."
The second part is about plants, and again compresses a wealth of useful information into a succinct but rich overview of what flowers hummingbirds like, and why. More than a plant list, this section will help you understand how to plan a garden that works.
There are also sections on feeders, habitat, and species identification. Each is invested with an equally-impressive amount of insight, although as the author advises you'll want a good field guide for serious ID questions. Finally, there's a nice listing of organizations and both printed and online resources for further study. The sharp-eyed reader will note a tantalizing reference to Sheri's upcoming Field Guide to Hummingbirds, due in 2001. I can barely wait!
You might buy this book for the bird photos; they're more natural and less "posed" looking than most, included not for fieldmarks or to depict brilliant colors in perfect light, but to show how various hummers appear to birders most of the time. Flower photos are Sheri's specialty, and the ones here are exquisite.
I can't recommend Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds too highly. If you want to learn more about hummingbirds, this book belongs in your library.
- Lanny Chambers
Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds may be ordered from SABO from this online form or by mail:
Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory
P.O. Box 5521
Bisbee, AZ 85603-5521
The price is US$7.95 ($6.95 for SABO members), plus $2.00 for postage and handling.