Monday, June 23, 2014

Guide to the Common Towhees of North Carolina and Virginia (Review)

In his groundbreaking new book, Field Guide to the Common Towhees of North Carolina and Virginia, Lucas R Bobay explores the diverse group of emberizid sparrows called Towhees. He uses this book as a way to focus in on the species of Towhee native to the Carolinas (specifically North Carolina) and Virginia and really go in depth into the patterns of vagrancy and migration.

This is Lucas R Bobay's sixth book on Towhees - his past ones studied Towhees in different parts of the world. It is safe to say that he is the world's foremost expert on this group of species.  This is quite obvious as the information in the book is of the utmost quality.  Having grown up in North Carolina, it is obvious that this is the group of Towhees that Bobay has studied the most.

The beautiful cover art adds to the allure of this fascinating work.
The book is quite hefty, about 350 pages, but no page is wasted. It starts off with the "Topography of a Towhee" which outlines every part of the Towhee in great detail, so when Bobay mentions the "slightly rufescent supercilium" or something else along those lines, the reader knows exactly what he is talking about. He then goes on to mention the patterns of vagrancy in Towhees in North Carolina and Virginia. Now, you may be thinking: Isn't this a book of common Towhees of North Carolina and Virginia? The answer is: Yes. But this does not mean the book cannot study the vagrancy patterns of the species mentioned. This section includes detailed maps depicting common patterns and lines the Towhee may follow along with which times of year certain Towhees are to be expected.

Next up in the book are the plates. Included in the book are both drawings and photos, 134 altogether. The drawings show all of the color morphs and differences in Juvenile, Immature, Adult, Male, and Female Towhees of North Carolina and Virginia. I prefer the photos over the drawings due to their very high quality, as is seen on the cover. Most people say "don't judge a book by its cover" but the quality of the photo on the cover of this guide is truly representative of the quality of the information contained within it.
Sample Page showing the extensive historical accounts.
Much of the book explores the historical records of these birds (sample page above). It explains and explicates the reasons for movement within the populations as well as changes in the number of birds seen in different types of years.  I would recommend it to any birder who struggles with Towhee identification in the Carolinas or Virginia.

There are only a few apparent errors in the book. A few times the word Towhee is spelled "Towhss," but other than that the book is flawless. This book is exceptional and honestly the most groundbreaking book of 2014. I look forward to what Lucas R Bobay comes up with next.

This book is available in no bookstores, anywhere.

Review by Samuel Jolly


  1. I think I love this. I'm especially fond of using the alternative spelling in the title, and that it is plural just ices the cake. Towhsss rule!!

  2. I would buy this book.
    This blog made my day guys.