Picks and Pans Review: Audubon Society's Videoguide to the Birds of North America: I

updated 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Don't be seduced by the graceful snowy egret gliding across a blue-water background on the tape's cover. The National Audubon Society did not create this video so nature buffs could coo over gorgeous footage of birds in flight. Rather, it's an all-business production for bird-watchers—the first in a four-part series—introducing 116 birds that are "reliably breeding" in North America. Footage of each bird is brief. The narrator, naturalist Michael Godfrey, uses photographs, paintings and diagrams to show the birds' distinguishing marks, size, wingspan, gender differences and migratory habits. The pied-billed grebe, Godfrey says, has a short, thick bill and can be easily spotted in the shallow, temperate waters of North America because its "cottony rump is often conspicuous against the plain, brownish plumage." Each segment is numbered to make searching simple. Name bands across the bottom of the screen are color-coded according to the six orders of birds discussed: loons; grebes; pelicans; such aquatic fowl as swans, geese and ducks; flesh-eating fowl like vultures, hawks and falcons; and chickenlike birds that include grouse, quail, pheasant, turkey and ptarmigan. Even avid birders—and this tape is for your binoculars only—won't want to take in all 96 minutes in one swoop. There is, though, a soothing sound track taped by the Cornell Ornithological Laboratory. After a long day it might be nice to kick back to the authentic chirping of 116 birds. Just be sure you feed the cat first. (MasterVision, $78 ppd; 212-546-9141)

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