Following on from my review of Once upon a Flock, which was a fabulous book about Chickens, I was recently asked if I would like to review another book about birds. I am always keen to read a new book and birds are a particular passion of mine so I was pleased to receive THE MAGIC & MYSTERY OF BIRDS: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, by Noah Strycker.
From the press release which came with the book
Do humans have more in common with birds than previously thought? US ornithologist Strycker thinks they do. Here he reveals intriguing parallels between the behaviour of birds and our world, and shows how, by studying memory skills, co-operative nesting, pecking orders and more, they can help us to understand humanity
I say "another book about birds" but as soon as I read the first few pages I realised that this book is so much more than that. Each chapter is a fascinating and interesting self contained essay on a different aspect of bird behaviour, with a wealth of scientific evidence and interesting facts on every page. Author Noah Strycker is a photographer, writer, and associate editor of Birding magazine. Named ‘Young Birder of the Year’ in 2004 by the American Birding Association, he travels the world birdwatching and it is obvious he really knows his subject.
For example I knew that vultures could scent decaying flesh and that was how they homed in on carrion but I had no idea that they could safely digest rotting meat which is so laden with bacteria (botulism, anyone?) it would kill anything else, something which may well hold clues to combating serious infections in humans.
I knew European wrens liked to huddle in a bundle for warmth but Australian fairy wrens actively help their neighbouring family by feeding and caring for young, not their own.
I knew hummingbirds spent the night in suspended animation every night but I had no idea they were so violent towards each other at the feeders!
This is a book I found I dipped into; a book to be picked up, savoured, a chapter read and then thought about and digested for a while before moving on to the next one. In fact I have been carrying this book around on trains and reading a chapter then putting the book down to really think about the contents.
If you are interested in why birds do, what they do, if you have ever watched your chickens sort themselves into a pecking order and wondered how, if you have ever wondered just how so many starlings manage to fly in a huge group without banging into each other or how homing pigeons get back home, then this book is a must read.
THE MAGIC AND MYSTERY OF BIRDS
Published by Souvenir Press, 18 September, £18, Hb
Disclaimer - I was sent a copy of this book in order to review it. I was not paid any money for this review, and it is my honest opinion of the book,