There are many field guides to birds of the United States. Refer to one if you want to know which colors go exactly where on these thirty-three precisely drawn illustrations. Or create your own fantastic ornithological kingdom by using the brightest shades and patterns you can imagine. It’s almost impossible to improve upon the natural colors of the abstract-art-themed wood duck or the well-named painted bunting, but there’s no reason not to give the American robin a makeover.
The birds are arranged in order of their evolutionary history so that you can see the relationships among species and families. Some of them, like the northern cardinal, are familiar backyard friends; some, like the mountain quail and American bittern, are wary denizens of brushlands and marshes; and some, like the great horned owl, are seldom seen in daylight. One, unfortunately, is extinct—the bright and raucous Carolina parakeet, which once ranged widely in huge noisy flocks. All are waiting for you to bring them to life with your own vibrant colors.