Books for people who love our winged friends

Because birds are the reason we fell in love with music.
The Genius of Birds
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The Genius of Birds

by Jennifer Ackerman

About the book:  Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. In fact, according to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence.  Like humans, many birds have enormous brains relative to their size. Although small, bird brains are packed with neurons that allow them to punch well above their weight. In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research— the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states—Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are revolutionizing our view of what it means to be intelligent.Consider, as Ackerman does, the Clark’s nutcracker, a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember where it put them several months later; the mockingbirds and thrashers, species that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours; the well-known pigeon, which knows where it’s going, even thousands of miles from familiar territory; and the New Caledonian crow, an impressive bird that makes its own tools. But beyond highlighting how birds use their unique genius in technical ways, Ackerman points out the impressive social smarts of birds. They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They display a strong sense of fairness. They give gifts. They play keep-away and tug-of-war. They tease. They share. They cultivate social networks. They vie for status. They kiss to console one another. They teach their young. They blackmail their parents. They alert one another to danger. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve. This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science. Ackerman delivers an extraordinary story that will both give readers a new appreciation for the exceptional talents of birds and let them discover what birds can reveal about our changing world. Incredibly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds richly celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.


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Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest
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Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest

by Julie Zickefoose

About the book:  If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in bird nests, or what happens after a fledgling leaves the nest, come along on Julie’s sensitive exploration of often-uncharted ornithological ground. This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history, something readers have come to expect from Julie Zickefoose. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of seventeen different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on Julie's wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately, and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider’s glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition.   As an artist and wildlife rehabilitator, Julie possesses a unique skill set that includes sketching and painting rapidly from life as well as handling delicate hatchlings. She is uniquely positioned to create such an opus, and in fact, nothing like it has ever been attempted. Julie has many fans, and she will gain many more with this unparalleled work.


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The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human
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The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human

by Noah Strycker

About the book:  An entertaining and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world—and deep connection with humanity. Birds are highly intelligent animals, yet their intelligence is dramatically different from our own and has been little understood. As we learn more about the secrets of bird life, we are unlocking fascinating insights into memory, relationships, game theory, and the nature of intelligence itself.The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the deft artistry of bowerbirds, the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the lifelong loves of albatrosses, and other mysteries—revealing why birds do what they do, and offering a glimpse into our own nature.Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, Noah Strycker spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and shares the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds. You’ve never read a book about birds like this one.


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One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives
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One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives

by Bernd Heinrich

About the book:  The acclaimed scientist's encounters with individual wild birds, yielding “marvelous, mind-altering” (Los Angeles Times) insights and discoveries In his modern classics One Man’s Owl and Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich has written memorably about his relationships with wild ravens and a great horned owl.   In One Wild Bird at a Time, Heinrich returns to his great love: close, day-to-day observations of individual wild birds. There are countless books on bird behavior, but Heinrich argues that some of the most amazing bird behaviors fall below the radar of what most birds do in aggregate. Heinrich’s “passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science” (New York Times Book Review) lead to fascinating questions — and sometimes startling discoveries. A great crested flycatcher, while bringing food to the young in their nest, is attacked by the other flycatcher nearby. Why? A pair of Northern flickers hammering their nest-hole into the side of Heinrich’s cabin deliver the opportunity to observe the feeding competition between siblings, and to make a related discovery about nest-cleaning. One of a clutch of redstart warbler babies fledges out of the nest from twenty feet above the ground, and lands on the grass below. It can’t fly. What will happen next?   Heinrich “looks closely, with his trademark ‘hands-and-knees science’ at its most engaging, [delivering] what can only be called psychological marvels of knowing” (Boston Globe).   An eminent biologist shares the joys of bird-watching and how observing the anomalous behaviors of individual birds has guided his research.   Heinrich (Emeritus, Biology/Univ. of Vermont; The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration, 2014, etc.) smoothly describes how studying the daily lives of birds in their natural environments allows him to experience their world vicariously. Now retired and living in a cabin in the Maine woods, he devotes himself to closely observing “his avian neighbors, visitors, and vagrants, and keep[ing] daily records throughout spring, summer, fall, and winter.” Every year, he welcomes a pair of broad-wing hawks who feast at a vernal pond populated by frogs, spring peepers, and salamanders while refurbishing their old nest. Unusually, they provide a fern cover on the nest, which they update on a daily basis after their chicks hatch. Heinrich also includes anecdotes from an earlier time when he still lived in Vermont. Awakened one morning by the loud drumming of a male woodpecker on a nearby apple tree, the author wondered if perhaps he was seeking to attract a female. Surprisingly, when a female was drawn to the sound, he stopped drumming and flew away. The same behavior was repeated the following day. The author’s observations led him to conclude that the bird's drumming was not part of a mating ritual but rather a noisy advertisement of his nest-building skills. Vireos nesting near his cabin allowed him to observe how they deliberately reduced the number of eggs they were hatching to accommodate the reduced food supply after an unseasonal freeze. Heinrich explains that bird-watching has been an important part of his life since he was a boy on his family's farm. When he was 6, they moved from Germany to Maine. Finding familiar birds nesting “immediately made this place our home,” he writes.   An engaging memoir of the opportunities for doing scientific research without leaving one's own backyard. (Kirkus)   


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The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration
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The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration

by Bernd Heinrich

About the book:  “A noted naturalist explores the centrality of home in the lives of humans and other animals . . . A special treat for readers of natural history.” — Kirkus Reviews   Every year, many species make the journey from one place to another, following the same paths and ending up in the same places. Every year since boyhood, the acclaimed scientist and author Bernd Heinrich has done the same, returning to a beloved patch of western Maine woods. Which led him to wonder: what is the biology in humans of this primal pull toward a particular place, and how is it related to animal homing? In The Homing Instinct, Heinrich explores the fascinating mysteries of animal migration: how geese imprint true visual landscape memory; how scent trails are used by many creatures to locate their homes with pinpoint accuracy; and how even the tiniest of songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances. And he reminds us that to discount our human emotions toward home is to ignore biology itself.   “A graceful blend of science and memoir . . . [Heinrich’s] ability to linger and simply be there for the moment when, for instance, an elderly spider descends from a silken strand to take the insect he offers her is the heart of his appeal.” — Julie Zickefoose, Wall Street Journal   “Deep and insightful writing.” — David Gessner, Washington Post


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Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
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Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

by Ben Montgomery

About the book:  Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, sixty-seven-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. By September 1955 she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, sang “America, the Beautiful,” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”            Driven by a painful marriage, Grandma Gatewood not only hiked the trail alone, she was the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times. At age seventy-one, she hiked the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity, and appeared on TV with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter. The public attention she brought to the trail was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.            Author Ben Montgomery interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail, unearthed historic newspaper and magazine articles, and was given full access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk shines a fresh light on one of America’s most celebrated hikers. 


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The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg
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The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg

by Tim Birkhead

About the book:  Renowned ornithologist Tim Birkhead opens this gripping story as a female guillemot chick hatches, already carrying her full quota of tiny eggs within her undeveloped ovary. As she grows into adulthood, only a few of her eggs mature, are released into the oviduct, and are fertilized by sperm stored from copulation that took place days or weeks earlier. Within a matter of hours, the fragile yolk is surrounded by albumen and the whole is gradually encased within a turquoise jewel of a shell. Soon afterward the fully formed egg is expelled onto a bare rocky ledge, where it will be incubated for four weeks before another chick emerges and the life cycle begins again. The Most Perfect Thing is about how eggs in general are made, fertilized, developed, and hatched. The eggs of most birds spend just 24 hours in the oviduct; however, that journey takes 48 hours in cuckoos, which surreptitiously lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. From the earliest times, the study of birds' ovaries and ova (eggs) played a vital role in the quest to unravel the mysteries of fertilization and embryo development in humans. Birkhead uses birds' eggs as wondrous portals into natural history, enlivened by the stories of naturalists and scientists, including Birkhead and his students, whose discoveries have advanced current scientific knowledge of reproduction.


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Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
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Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

by Bernd Heinrich

About the book:  Heinrich involves us in his quest to get inside the mind of the raven. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close, Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat. He studies their daily routines, and in the process, paints a vivid picture of the ravens' world. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation and analysis, we become their intimates too. Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven follows an exotic journey—from New England to Germany, and from Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic—offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature. Each new discovery and insight into raven behavior is thrilling to read, at once lyrical and scientific.


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Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them
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Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them

by Visit Amazon's Sharon Beals Pagesearch resultsLearn about Author CentralSharon Beals

About the book:  Sharon Beals' gorgeous photographs of nests offer a new window onto the life and beauty of birds. Drawn from the collections of the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, these birds' nests from around the world offer astonishing insight into the intricate detail wrought by nature's most fastidious architects. Lovely images of nests and eggs are set against rich black backgrounds, and are accompanied by fascinating and informative portraits—conveyed through words and illustrations—of the birds that built them. A beautiful volume, Nests is the perfect gift for birders, bird lovers, and anyone captivated by the fleeting and fascinating splendor of the natural world.


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Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build
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Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build

by Peter Goodfellow

About the book:  Birds are the most consistently inventive builders, and their nests set the bar for functional design in nature. Avian Architecture describes how birds design, engineer, and build their nests, deconstructing all types of nests found around the world using architectural blueprints and detailed descriptions of the construction processes and engineering techniques birds use. This spectacularly illustrated book features 300 full-color images and more than 35 case studies that profile key species worldwide. Each chapter covers a different type of nest, from tunnel nests and mound nests to floating nests, hanging nests, woven nests, and even multiple-nest avian cities. Other kinds of avian construction--such as bowers and harvest wells--are also featured. Avian Architecture includes intricate step-by-step sequences, visual spreads on nest-building materials and methods, and insightful commentary by a leading expert. Illustrates how birds around the world design, engineer, and build their nests Features architectural blueprints, step-by-step sequences, visual spreads on nest-building materials and methods, and expert commentary Includes 300 full-color images Covers more than 100 bird species worldwide


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