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For hobbyists; The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, by John K. Terres. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $49.95.

If you're not the type to sit up nights perusing dictionaries and encyclopedias, this book could very well change your reading habits. A massive, colorful compendium of bird facts, representing 20 years' work by a former Aubudon magazine editor, John K. Terres, it offers detailed information on 847 birds in 78 families and a scholarly summary of ornithological lore. It also happens to be quite captivatingly readable.

The most striking aspect of the book is the collection of 875 color photographs which capture nearly every species that nests in North America, from blue-footed boobies to prairie falcons, with breathtaking detail in flight, in the nest, and on the hunt.

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The text is organized into detailed bird "biographies" and 625 articles covering a whole range of bird lore -- flight, how birds adapt to cold, echolocation (navigation by sound), birdsongs, etc. The first comprehensive, one-volume encyclopedia of its kind, this guide is simply dazzling in its beauty and abundant in its scientific treasures.

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