Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Book Review: Loon Lessons

 Loon Lessons. James D. Paruk. University of Minnesota Press. 2021. 222 pp. Hardbound. $24.95.

A plethora of loon biology is to be learned in these pages. Some examples include why loons are closely related to penguins and why loons and cormorants look so different if they compete in similar habitats. Topics such as these are discussed in an evolutionary framework, opening a door to evolutionary theory and how biologists think.

Anyone remotely interested in loons or birds in general will love this book. Although written by a renowned ornithologist, the style is folksy almost to a fault. Some of the author’s personal narrative could have been omitted—it seems irrelevant that Paruk grew up watching Wild Kingdom or that he pinched himself with delight during an Arctic field trip. Instead of footnotes and scientific citation, each chapter ends with a list of further reading.

At first, I was taken aback by the casual writing. Perhaps this style will lure lay readers into the wonderful world of loons, but after only a few pages, I realized this is a really great book. Loon Lessons is an enjoyable summary of loons. Once you get used to his style, Paruk covers a lot of loon biology--evolution and physiology, loon anatomy, communication, behavior, migration, ecology, and conservation. My only disappointment in the book is the sparsity of Illustrations. Only a dozen small, color photos are included in the center of the book. A few small, black-and-white diagrams, maps, and photos pepper the text. On the other hand, if someone wants to see more loons, there is always the Internet or trips to the North Woods.

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