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THE WIND MASTERS by Pete Dunne

THE WIND MASTERS

The Lives of North American Birds of Prey

By Pete Dunne

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-65235-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 These ``fictional portrayals'' of the daily lives and behavior patterns of 33 nesting species of hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures are brilliant when Dunne (The Feather Quest, 1992, etc.) stays with the bird. When humans enter the scene, his attempts to impart ``anecdotal wisdom'' verge on the ludicrous. Dunne, director of the Cape May Observatory, anthropomorphizes ``the dialogues, the dreams, the expressed emotions'' of the raptors, and it usually works. He supplies details on each bird's size, coloring, physiology, diet, hunting and mating habits, its call and flying style within the context of a ``story.'' His serious, observant descriptions are vivid, sometimes lovely, and often amusingly precise: A hook-billed kite, ``proportioned like an oversized bowling pin,'' has eyes ``Bette Davis wide and billy goat crazy.'' The strongest pieces include his portrayal of a male gyrfalcon as he patiently awaits the arrival of his mate in the inhospitable environs of Alaska's North Slope; a 6 a.m. visit with a New Jersey turkey vulture who haunts the highways and for whom the automobile is the ``ideal predator'' in that it ``doesn't eat what it kills''; and the courtship rite of the red-tailed hawk, wherein the male, outweighed and outsized by the uninterested female, pursues her like a lusty schoolboy. But Dunne pushes his luck when a recently widowed farmer, observing a lonesome red- shouldered hawk, decides it's the one he and his then-girlfriend watched swooning for his mate years earlier. Farmer and hawk both find new loves. Then there's the sharp-shinned hawk who, chasing a sparrow, flies smack into Reverend Samuels's study window, leaving an imprint, ``the perfect outline of an angel.'' Strong on natural history; read it for the birds. (illustrations, not seen)