Jonathan Cape, Octavo, dustwrapper, colour photographs.
Vast in both scope and scale, this book explores and celebrates the relationship between birds and people. Throughout history their flight has inspired the human imagination so that birds are embedded in our religions, folklore, music and arts. Part natural history and part cultural study, this book describes and maps the entire spectrum of our engagements with birds, drawing in themes of history, literature, art, cuisine, language, lore, politics and the environment. In the end, this is a book as much about us as it is about birds.
Jonathan Cape, Octavo, dustwrapper, colour photographs.
WAS $23. Birds sing and call, sometimes in complex and beautiful arrangements of notes, sometimes in one-line repetitions that resemble a ringtone more than a symphony. Listening, we are stirred, transported, and even envious of birds’ ability to produce what Shelley called “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” And for hundreds of years, we have tried to write down what we hear when birds sing. Poets have put birdsong in verse (Thomas Nashe: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo”) and ornithologists have transcribed bird sounds more methodically. Drawing on this history of bird writing, in Aaaaw to Zzzzzd John Bevis offers a lexicon of the words of birds. For tourists in Birdland, there could be no more charming phrasebook. Consulting it, we find seven distinct variations of “hoo” attributed to seven different species of owls, from a simple hoo to the more ambitious hoo hoo hoo-hoo, ho hoo hoo-hoo; the understated cheet of the Tree swallow; the resonant kreeaaaaaaaaaaar of the Swainson’s hawk; the modest peep peep peep of the meadow pipit.
We learn that some people hear the Baltimore oriole saying “here, here, come right here, dear” and the Yellowhammer saying “a little bit of bread and no cheese.” Bevis, a poet, frames his lexicons – one for North America and one for Britain and northern Europe – with an evocative appreciation of birds, birdsong, and human attempts to capture the words of birds in music and poetry. He also offers an engaging account of other methods of documenting birdsong – field recording, graphic notation, and mechanical devices including duck calls and the serinette, an instrument used to teach song tunes to songbirds. The singing of birds is nature at its most sublime, and words are our medium for expressing this sublimity.
Weidensaul translates difficult scientific concepts into understandable English while artfully interweaving personal experiences into the larger natural-history story. A book fulfilling for birders and nonbirders alike.
‘Living on the Wind stands out among bird books. Usually, book designers adore bird migration because it gives them the chance to endulge in wonderfully evocative illustrations and photographs. Soon, the text becomes of secondary importance, and another coffee-table book is spawned. Remarkably, Living on the Wind hasn’t fallen into this trap. It is a book to be read, not looked at; there is not a single picture of a bird to enliven its 400 pages. Thought-provoking, provocative, informative, its not only an outstanding book on bird migration, it’s also one of the best bird books I have read for a long time. It may be heavily biased towards North America, but there is sufficient here to hold the attention of anyone who has ever marvelled at the mysteries of bird migration.’ David Tomlinson, New Scientist
From the red grouse to the Ethiopian bush-crow, bird populations around the world can provide us with vital insights into the effects of climate change on species and ecosystems. They are among the best studied and monitored of organisms, yet many are already under threat of extinction as a result of habitat loss, overexploitation and pollution. Providing a single source of information for students, scientists, practitioners and policy-makers, Birds and Climate Change begins with a critical review of the existing impacts of climate change on birds, including changes in the timing of migration and breeding and effects on bird populations around the world. The second part considers how conservationists can assess potential future impacts, quantifying how extinction risk is linked to the magnitude of global change and synthesising the evidence in support of likely conservation responses. The final chapters assess the threats posed by efforts to reduce the magnitude of climate change.
Our relationship to birds is different from our relationship to other wild creatures. We love to watch them, listen to them, keep them as pets, wear their feathers, even converse with them. Birds, Jim Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature. They compel us to look to the skies, both literally and metaphorically, draw us out into nature to seek their beauty, and let us experience vicariously what it is like to be weightless. Birds have helped us in so many of our human endeavors: learning to fly, clothing and feeding ourselves, and providing medical treatments. And they even have much to teach us about being human.
The Wonder of Birds illuminates qualities unique to birds that demonstrate just how invaluable they are to humankind – both ecologically and spiritually. The wings of turkey buzzards influenced the Wright brothers’ flight design; the chickadee’s song is considered by scientists to be the most sophisticated language in the animal world and a window into the evolution of our own language and our society; and the quietly powerful presence of eagles in the disadvantaged neighborhood of Anacostia, D.C., proved to be the most effective method for rehabilitating the troubled teenagers placed in charge of their care.
Exploring both cutting-edge scientific research and our oldest cultural beliefs, Robbins moves these astonishing creatures from the background of our lives to the foreground, from the quotidian to the miraculous, showing us that we must fight to save the imperilled bird population, for the sake of both the planet and humankind.