A-Z of Birds

A-Z of Birds

A Birder's tales from around the world

In these entertaining birding anecdotes from around the world, Bo Beolens, alias the Fatbirder, traverses many of the planet’s wild places, along with his wife Maggie, looking at birds – some familiar, others exotic, a few beyond a person’s most extravagant expectations. On the way, he meets up with a wide variety of human, animal and bird characters and experiences a plenitude of amusing and sometimes bizarre happenstances, all told with the author’s well-known flair and panache.

The book, with a prelude by celebrity naturalist and broadcaster Mike Dilger, comprises twenty-six alphabetical ‘chapters’, each being accompanied by a humorous drawing by cartoonist and illustrator Des Campbell.

Also available as a Kindle, Kobo and  Nook version!


Author: Bo Beolens
Publisher: Brambleby Books
Year of Publication: 1 August 2013
Format and Pages: Paperback, 240pp
ISBN: 9781908241238
Retail Price: £8.99
Our Discount Price: £8.10

Sample text from A-Z of Birds

A is for Anhinga the Snake-bird

(Snake-bird, Anhinga anhinga)

I do not have Ophidiophobia, which is an irrational terror of snakes. My fear is rational and reasonable. I fear their venom and do not trust the non-venomous kind because they may be born ‘liars’ that are merely laying in wait trying to lull me into the false belief that they are harmless. I can actually handle the small constrictors knowing that their muscled bodies and propensity to curl around one’s arm is a sure sign that there is nothing more dangerous in the locker. Several snakes are so well known to me and have no known imitators as to be in no way fearful. But all snakes that I have not been formally introduced to, that show no evidence of dental extraction or that do not exhibit unmistakable constrictor tendencies, are not to be trusted further than I can throw them. Mind you, I think, in extremis, I could probably throw most snakes a goodly distance.

I am no sportsman, but once, when we lived in an old country cottage, a mouse fell off the headboard onto my head in the middle of the night. Notwithstanding the fact that I was asleep, I plucked the beast from my scalp and hurled it so hard against the far bedroom wall that what was left of its corpse bounced nearly all the way back to me as my freshly opened eyes stared in horrified disbelief. Terror can have an upside.


P is for Pardalotes

(Spotted Pardalote, Pardalotus punctatus)

Part One – Heard Only

There are four species of pardalote – and I haven’t seen any of them. In particular I have very actively and on several occasions not seen the Spotted Pardalote!

My first encounter was many years ago when birding in northern Western Australia with the very appropriately named George Swan (see Z). This was a short but eventful leg of a trip we took to several parts of Australia. We had organized the trip ourselves and largely birded under our own steam but had decided that, as Western Australia was new to us, we would hire a guide for a couple of days in the Broome area.

The day after we arrived, George picked us up and even brought with him some ‘sensible’ boots for Maggie who only had sandals to wear. When he took them out of the back of the 4x4 he did what everyone does in the tropics, gave them a shake in case something nasty had crawled inside. Out from one boot rolled a stream of what appeared to be half-size mothballs… but George corrected our assumption… they were, in fact, gecko eggs!


X is for Xenops

(Plain Xenops, Xenops minutus)

The Plain Xenops is ostensibly, as the name suggests, a rather dull fellow. It is a member of an interesting family, the Furnariidae, otherwise known as the Ovenbirds; they create elaborate kiln-like nests from clay. The Plain Xenops is, however, also the ‘plain Jane’ of nest builders, merely shredding a little plant material to line a hole in a tree. Its song is also an unremarkable ‘fit fit fit f ff f’. Many of the family have delightful sage-green or light-blue eggs… not so our poor plain birds; theirs are white as driven snow. In the lowland forests of Panama (where I have seen several Plain Xenops) they are hard to see as they forage for insects, blending into the leaf-litter or against a plain brown log as they search for, appropriate enough, boring beetles. In other words, there really is nothing outstanding about these birds apart, of course from their name, odd on the eye and hard to pronounce.

It is pronounced ZENN-ops. The only reason it is not spelt with a ‘Z’ is that the scientific name was coined first and the ‘common’ name is the same, because this sadly unremarkable bird inspired no other in those who discovered, collected and studied it. Most scientific names are created from Latin or Greek. In this case Xen’os is Ancient Greek for ‘strange’ or, perhaps, ‘foreign’… so this clearly normal – nay boring – bird is, apparently, strange.

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Reviews and readers' comments

This is a new book from a man who never seems to stop to take breath. Well known (as 'Fatbirder') in birding circles, Bo Beolens has produced here a delightfully light-hearted, fun book relating some of his birding encounters around the world, accompanied by his wife Maggie…. The drawings by cartoonist Des Campbell contribute wonderfully to what is a great little book for dipping into. -- Carole Showell, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

‘I thought birders were normal people until I read Bo's wonderful book. I no longer think that way.’ - - Al Batt - US writer, birder and raconteur

‘... warm, full of humour and self-deprecation, laced with well-turned phrases and a dollop of lugubriousness. It’s a very pleasant mix...’ - -Charlies Moores - 'Talking Naturally'

‘...Its a hoot!’ - -Wes Biggs - Florida Guide & Top Lister

‘The author brings all of his trademark charm and humor to bear in a delightful alphabetical memoir, combining the lighthearted and the thoughtful to make a really appealing book.’ - -Jim Wright - Birding New Jersey

...This book represents a good read, entertaining and thought provoking in equal measure. -- Norman McCanch - KOS News

... I enjoyed the tales of his adventures and amusing travails as he and his amazingly patient wife globe-trotted. -- M. Everett - British Birds


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