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Mission

The purpose of this e-book is to introduce Arthur Cleveland Bent's (1866-1954) work to new generations of bird watchers, conservationists, and amateur naturalists. Extracted from the voluminous National Museum Bulletin series and assembled in one easily accessible place, here is a broad sampling of the Life Histories of North American Birds (twenty-one volumes in all, published between 1919 and 1968). Included are the Life Histories of some of the most widely distributed, abundant, popular, and familiar birds of the more than 800 species which currently breed, regularly visit, or are occasionally seen somewhere in North America.

The primary consideration in deciding which of the histories to present in this collection was how widespread and/or abundant the birds currently are in North America. Of additional concern was a desire to provide coverage of a broad array of families and popular species. And, finally, it was necessary to exercise personal judgment in evaluating the contextual appropriateness of the histories of likely candidates, individually and collectively. Some familiar birds not included might well have been chosen by another editor.

The times in which Bent lived are clearly reflected in his writing, and there have certainly been many new discoveries and additions to ornithological knowledge in the intervening years. In the Life Histories selected for publication here there are occasional references to hunting practices and egg, feather, and nest collecting that are now illegal or require special permits according to several federal bird protection acts. There are also some subspecies mentioned that are no longer recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union; some of the nomenclature has changed since these reports were first published. Nevertheless, the eminently valuable original historical text is preserved in this collection with very little alteration. Only negligible editing was necessary to present the material in this context. In the original National Museum Bulletins, asterisks indicate Bent's deletions in material submitted by contributors. I have replaced these asterisks with the more usual ellipsis points, but borrowed Bent's use of asterisks to indicate the relatively few places where I in turn made cuts (of obviously outdated and potentially confusing material) in the text. In addition, the titles of the accounts have been updated to include the current common and scientific names of the species, and the outdated "Distribution" sections of the original histories have been omitted.

The selected accounts, written by Bent and his collaborators with the assistance of numerous contributors, have been electronically reset. The black-and-white photos which originally appeared in the National Museum Bulletins are not included in this electronic work. The presentation of species in the Table of Contents is in taxonomic order according to the A.O.U. Check-list (7th Edition, 1998). They are listed alphabetically by current common name in the Index and cross-referenced under today's scientific name as well as the common name used by Bent if it differs. For example, the entries for Falco sparverius and Eastern Sparrow Hawk refer the reader to the bird's current common name, American Kestrel.

Arthur Cleveland Bent traditionally concluded his introductory notes to each volume with this statement: "The reader is reminded again that this is a cooperative work; if he fails to find in these volumes anything that he knows about the birds, he can blame himself for not having sent the information to--THE AUTHOR." Conversely, if the reader fails to find here Bent's life histories of all the popular, well-known, or wide-ranging North American birds that might have been included, file storage considerations and my individual judgment and biases are to blame for their absence. It is my sincere hope, however, that this e-book will indeed serve to introduce the pioneering ornithological work of Arthur Cleveland Bent to a significant new group of readers. For those interested in the detailed coverage of additional species, the numbers, titles, and publication dates of the complete twenty-one-volume series of Life Histories of North American Birds, originally issued as United States National Museum Bulletins, are listed in the Appendix. Paperback reprint editions of some of these volumes are still available in conventional book form. (To check availability click on the Amazon.com icon below and search for the keywords Arthur Cleveland Bent in the Books category.)

Patricia Query Newforth (Editor, Compiler, and Copyright Owner of this electronic book)

 


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