Canadian Songbirds and Their Ways


176 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88776-124-0





Illustrations by Kathryn Devos-Miller
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



An attractive and comprehensive work, this is a welcome addition to the limited ornithological material available that is both slanted to the general reader and specifically Canadian. The text is sufficiently detailed to offer meat to even the experienced birder, yet it includes the basics; it is a good introductory book for someone new to the field.

The Risings bring scientific accuracy to the work, saving it from the “aren’t-birds-cute” affliction which damns so many books on the subject. They deal with physical characteristics and coloration, migration, habitat, behaviour and the nesting cycle, covering all key areas of the bird’s existence.

Although not a field guide, the work gives identification pointers and distribution information, including maps showing summer and winter ranges and breeding area for many species. Of particular interest is a brief section on how to identify a bird by its song. A glossary and an index make the book a practical reference tool.

The numerous illustrations, although adequate for giving coloration and general appearance of a species, are disappointing. With so much excellent nature art readily available from the now-popular high realism school, Devos-Miller’s painting suffers in the comparison. Her birds look stilted and posed, leading the viewer to surmise that she works from skins and hasn’t managed to convey the life the stuffed skins once enjoyed. Nonetheless, the proliferation of full-color plates, the excellent organization and design of the oversized pages, and the plentiful detail sketches put the book into the coffeetable or gift book category.


Rising, Trudy, and Jim Rising, “Canadian Songbirds and Their Ways,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed August 19, 2022,