Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 1998


Published in Great Plains Research Vol. 8, No.1, 1998. Copyright © 1998 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


Paul Johnsgard seems to produce books the way other academicians turn out journal articles. In contrast to his recent work, which has surveyed large groups of birds, this one focuses on only eight species. It also varies because there is a co-author, Montserrat Carbonell, who did her doctoral research on this group of birds.

The book is divided into two sections. The first is a general summary of stifftail biology, while the second contains accounts of the eight species included in this taxonomic group by the authors. The volume begins with a survey of the history of stifftail taxonomy, emphasizing which species belong to this group and where the group sits relative to other waterfowl on the evolutionary tree. The next two chapters examine general stifftail morphology, behavior, and ecology, and are followed by a chapter on social behavior, including a long discussion of the group's unusual pair-bonding behavior. Chapter 5 focuses on actual breeding behavior and populations, with information on dump-nesting behavior and how it may have led to obligate brood parasitism in the Black-headed Duck (Heteronetta atricapilla).