Birds, Familiar: Life Histories of North American Birds, A.C. Bent, Home Page


Everyone interested in birds should discover the magnificent work of Arthur Cleveland Bent (1866-1954), one of America's greatest ornithologists. His extraordinary Life Histories of North American Birds, published in a twenty-one volume series (1919-1968), provided behavioral information not available in the standard field guides. These pioneering studies are the durable foundation on which almost all other compilations of North American bird biology (including the contemporary Birds of North America) rest. In them Bent and his collaborators present, in enthusiastic, readable prose, comprehensive information about courtship, nesting, eggs, young, plumages, food, behavior, voice, enemies, and more. Readers who supplement their field guides with these delightful accounts acquire a deeper understanding of both the birds and their observers (as well as an interesting cultural history lesson).

Arthur Cleveland Bent was a successful businessman who became interested in birds during his childhood in Massachusetts. A dedicated amateur ornithologist, he traveled extensively throughout North America and acquired a thorough knowledge of the avifauna. In 1901 he began submitting papers to The Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists' Union, making important contributions on distributions and nesting habits.

In 1910, at the request of the Smithsonian Institution, Bent commenced work on the monumental series of Life Histories of North American Birds. He devoted the remaining forty-four years of his life to the project, gathering information from, and supplementing his own observations with the published literature and unpublished notes of volunteer contributors and collaborating authors throughout North America. (All told, he acknowledged contributions and help from over 800 individuals.)

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