• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Local author writes new guide for state birders

ByKeith M. Jones

Aug 9, 2022

Local author and ornithologist Marc Parnell has published a bird identification guide, “Birds of Arkansas,” which has been named to several Amazon bestseller lists.

The guide was published by Naturalist and Traveler Press on March 22. Parnell is the author of 41 bird identification guides covering regional birds for states and cities in North America. His book series, “The Birding Pro’s Field Guides”, includes several titles that have achieved best-selling status in several countries.

“I was originally inspired to write ‘Birds of Arkansas’ after struggling to find a birding guide to recommend to family and friends,” Parnell said. “While most field guides give information at a broader regional or continental level, ‘Birds of Arkansas’ gives specific information on the 130 most common birds in The Natural State, including monthly sighting forecasts localized for each species – a very first feature for any birding guide – projected search facility for each bird, daily behavioral logs, bird feeding information, full page color photographs and much more Again.”

When compiling the book, Parnell said his goal “was to study each bird throughout the calendar year and in a variety of habitats. It helped put me in the minds of each bird, so to speak, and also enabled me to observe and catalog a full and complete portrait of the behaviors and characteristics of each species: some of which had never been fully reported elsewhere.

As evidenced by the dozens of bird identification guides he has written, Parnell has a passion for bird watching, something he has done for over 20 years.

“Even as a young child, I was greatly influenced by the work of American naturalist Roger Tory Peterson. I received Peterson’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians from 1958 on my fourth birthday, and of what would become a lifelong passion for the outdoors,” he said.

“Birdwatching is about appreciating both the small details and the earth-shattering ones. Variations in the shape and length of a bird’s beak, for example, often tell us about the types of food it it prefers, while the width and length of its wings can dictate its habitat and foraging styles.”

Parnell’s mission is to equip the next generation of birders by providing information that is more accessible in nature to a beginner.

“Roger Tory Peterson’s original works have been so influential because they have made high-quality, easily digestible knowledge of birding accessible to the masses. Since Peterson’s death in 1996, it has almost become a arms race for many field guide authors to produce increasingly technical and scientific books, which often exclude the novice or intermediate,” he said.

“By bridging the gap between cutting-edge and affordability, I hoped to return to the original Peterson tradition, while refining and improving this formula with my own field research and the modern resources available to us today. “

Birdwatching has flourished as a hobby in recent times. While the pandemic has suppressed many pursuits and activities, it has had the opposite effect on birdwatching.

“The pandemic and its many stay-at-home orders have led to a widespread consideration of how we spend our free time. Many people have started spending more time outdoors, especially on walks: ultimately contributing to record numbers for all manners of birding-related activities.Many of my readers have also written to me that birdwatching helps them disconnect from technology in everyday life.Sometimes , it only takes a short walk or even a morning coffee in front of the feeders to feel refreshed and invigorated,” Parnell said.

For those looking to get into birding, Parnell has this advice: “For new birders, I generally recommend a good quality, state-focused field guide and a pair of binoculars. at 8x magnification highly rated (which only need to be $50 or $70 when first starting). My book, “Birds of Arkansas,” shows one to five ratings for how easily each species is found.

“My recommendation is to generally start with some of the more common species, such as those rated three and up. Birdwatching is wonderful because travel is often not even necessary. Paying attention to your journey are all good places to start, in fact, an Arkansas backyard feeding facility can easily attract more than 50 species each calendar year.

“Birds of Arkansas” can be purchased online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A red-winged blackbird is depicted. Photo courtesy of Marc Parnell. – Photo submitted


A Song Sparrow is depicted. Photo courtesy of Marc Parnell. – Photo submitted