GARDEN BIRDS OF AMERICACompany for Home Entertainment, Inc., Harrison Productions, Inc. (1996)


Garden Birds of America by George H. Harrison is 45 minutes long, and retails for $19.95. It is a basically enjoyable video with some nice footage of certain common garden birds from around the country. The premise of the tape is to take a look at back yard gardens in Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, southern California, and Wisconsin. With the exception of Colorado, one garden is shown in each region, with an emphasis on the birds that appear there. In Colorado, two gardens are briefly shown. Thus, seven gardens in 45 minutes necessarily results in a cursory view of each, and little detail. While the footage is good, it is also a bit disappointing because the birds are so common. This is not to say I do not like American Robins or Chipping Sparrows (two species I have always enjoyed), it is just that I would have preferred to have seen more of the specialty species for the regions. This criticism is mitigated by two factors. First, because the birds shown are from differing parts of the country, most viewers are likely to see birds with which they are either unfamiliar or see rarely. Second, the quality of the footage of some the birds shown is quite good, such as the Scarlet Tanager in Connecticut, the Western Meadowlark in Colorado, the White-winged Dove in Arizona, the California Quail in Southern California, and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Wisconsin. Also good is the discussion, albeit brief, of how habitats can be created that otherwise do not exist, such as the use of the wall of the Arizona house and large (for the area) trees that produced a canyon effect increasing the number and variety of birds attracted to the yard.

Nonetheless, other parts are disappointing such as the portion in Connecticut where, during footage of a White-crowned Sparrow, the narration implies that if it were not for the fact that White-throated Sparrows were only migrants there, they might be confused with the White-crowneds. Although I have done little birding in Connecticut, winter or otherwise, I have spent much time birding northern New Jersey where White-throats are common winter birds. Thus, I strongly suspect this is also true in Connecticut. Furthermore, Peterson (who lived in Connecticut) shows their wintering range to extend significantly beyond this State. Regardless, these are species that are not likely to be confused by anyone who has used his/her bins more than once.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (the outer limit of human ability), I rate Garden Birds of America a 6½. It is enjoyable, if too much is not expected of it, and is  reasonably priced at $19.95 (especially given that NJAS/CMBO members can get it at a discount).

Mike Hannisian