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Penguin-Pedia

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Penguin-Pedia

Penguin-Pedia

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The Bottom Line

Anyone with an interest in penguins has to add Penguin-Pedia to their birding library, because without it they would be missing a treasure trove of detailed information, stunning photos and intimate insights about these charismatic birds. Easily organized and exceptionally readable, this book is a one-stop-shop for the penguin-a-holic.

Pros

  • Easy to read text and useful charts and tables provide comprehensive information on all of the world's existing penguin species.
  • The author's personal observations add intimate, realistic insights to each penguin species account.
  • Superb photography brings readers face to face with each penguin species, even if they can't travel the world themselves.
  • Includes suggestions of where and how to see penguins, both wild and captive.
  • From every book sale, $.50 is donated to the Dallas Zoo (author's home and home to resident African penguins).

Cons

  • Lacks an overall index but is otherwise very well organized, including a table of contents and color-coded pages for easy use.
  • Lacks an easy listing of travel and birding tour companies to contact for options to see penguins, but does include general resources for trip planning.

Description

  • Title: Penguin-Pedia: Photographs and Facts from One Man's Search for the Penguins of the World
  • Author: David Salomon
  • Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: November 2011
  • Format: Hardcover (Kindle edition also available)
  • Page Count: 312
  • ISBN: 978-1-61254-015-3
  • Price: $29.95

Review - Penguin-Pedia

Penguins are captivating birds that fascinate birders and non-birders alike, but how much do we really know about them? David Salomon knows a lot – after spending more two years traveling the world to see and photograph every living penguin species, he's sharing his knowledge, insights and expertise in a phenomenal encyclopedia of penguin lore: Penguin-Pedia: Photographs and Facts from One Man's Search for the Penguins of the World.

The first expectation of an encyclopedia of penguins is coverage of the world's penguin species, which Salomon does with extensive research and detail. Each of the seventeen penguin species of the world (the split of the northern and southern rockhopper penguins into separate species is not universally accepted; Salomon acknowledges the split but opts to keep them together because of their extreme similarity) is comprehensively covered, including details on:

  • General range, habitat and notable colony locations
  • Life expectancy, including breeding and chick rearing details
  • Subspecies
  • Overall appearance
  • Foraging behaviors and diet composition
  • Population trends
  • Behavioral characteristics
  • Threats and hazards

Salomon adds another dimension to each species overview with his personal observations and experiences. These insights enhance the book with a personal touch, giving readers a deeper understanding not only of the birds themselves, but also of the conditions they live in and what dedication it takes to see them in person.

Each species profile is augmented with multiple photos, all of which have been taken by Salomon. In total, the book contains more than 300 crisp, detailed photographs, including molting birds and penguins showing a variety of behaviors such as feeding, swimming, courting and nesting, making this book a visual treat for penguin-lovers as well as a detailed informational resource.

Penguin-Pedia goes far beyond individual accounts of penguin species, however. The book begins with an overview of penguins, including the evolution of the birds, their prehistoric ancestors and their history of interaction with humans. The book then closes with a discussion of penguin anatomy and physical characteristics common to all Spheniscidae birds, including a labeled photo of penguin body parts on page 246. A glossary of penguin vocabulary and list of conversions for imperial and metric measurements are also available, as well as a detailed bibliography for readers who want to delve even deeper into penguin lore.

One of the richest features of Penguin-Pedia, however, is not the sheer information it provides, but the way it inspires readers to seek out penguins on their own. Salomon is well aware of the effort and expense required to see every penguin species in the wild, and he shares his tips for where to see penguins in several ways. A basic map of penguin territories is included inside the front cover, and detailed suggestions for where to find a penguin are featured on pages 7-11, with each trip suggestion accompanied by a map and cost estimate. While those trip ideas are assuming a departure from the United States, the insights he provides are equally valuable no matter where birders originate from. Furthermore, a detailed list of where to see captive penguins, including zoo names, resident species and contact phone numbers as well as a list of where to see wild penguins organized by country with general population numbers for each location can help readers plan their own travels (pages 259-276).

In his quest to study each species, Salomon faced ice-bound boats, shifting bird ranges and unpredictable sightings, as well as the heartache of witnessing the threats penguins face, including starvation, oil spills and high chick mortality. Along the way, however, he also discovers these birds' enchanting personalities, irreverent quirks and unique features that endear them to millions of birders and nature lovers, and he weaves both into an amazingly informative yet conversational volume. As Salomon says, "Knowledge is a prerequisite for help. Several [penguin] species are in a dire state, and if we want to help them, we first must educate ourselves and learn who these penguins are, what they do, and why they are suffering." Penguin-Pedia does just that, and with that knowledge, every reader can make a difference to preserve penguins so future generations can do more than just read about them.

For more information, photos and updates, visit Penguin-Pedia.com.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the author. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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