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Bird Sense: What it's Like to be a Bird

…a ‘must-read’

Bird Sense: What it's Like to be a Bird By Tim Birkhead | 265 Pages | Black & White Illustrations | Bloomsbury Publishers | Hardcover | 2012 | ISBN 9781408820131

Publishers Overview

What is it like to be a swift, flying at over one hundred kilometres an hour? Or a kiwi, plodding flightlessly among the humid undergrowth in the pitch dark of a New Zealand night? And what is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise?

‘Bird Sense’ addresses questions like these and many more, by describing the senses of birds that enable them to interpret their environment and to interact with each other. Our affinity for birds is often said to be the result of shared senses--vision and hearing--but how exactly do their senses compare with our own? And what about a birds' sense of taste, or smell, or touch or the ability to detect the earth's magnetic field? Or the extraordinary ability of desert birds to detect rain hundreds of kilometres away--how do they do it?

‘Bird Sense’ is based on a conviction that we have consistently underestimated what goes on in a bird's head. Our understanding of bird behaviour is simultaneously informed and constrained by the way we watch and study them. By drawing attention to the way these frameworks both facilitate and inhibit discovery, it identifies ways we can escape from them to seek new horizons in bird behaviour. There has never been a popular book about the senses of birds. No one has previously looked at how birds interpret the world or the way the behaviour of birds is shaped by their senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of observation and an understanding of birds and their behaviour that is firmly grounded in science.The Author: Tim Birkhead is a professor at the University of Sheffield where he teaches animal behaviour and the history of science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and his research has taken him all over the world in the quest to understand the lives of birds. He has written for The Independent, New Scientist, BBC Wildlife. Among his other books are Promiscuity, Great Auk Islands, The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology which won the McColvin medal, "The Red Canary" which won the Consul Cremer Prize and The Wisdom of Birds. He is married, has three children and lives in Sheffield.

Fatbirder View

The subject matter of this book is straightforward a simple walk through the senses that birds posses and experience. Of course, their senses are not so simple and nor is it always easy to demonstrate convincing evidence about their very existence let alone the forms they take. Ornithologists have compiled evidence over many years and pulling together that evidence in a simple, easy to understand form is no mean feat. I was not always 100% sure that the author’s interpretations were quite as absolute as one might suppose. This is particularly true of the chapter on emotion. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal and have no doubt this book will be a standard text for anyone with an interest whether it is scientific or merely passing.

The sections relating to the author’s own experience are written in a strange way I found difficult to adjust to; they are written as if in real time using the present tense as if the author were describing to us what he is doing right now. To be honest this grated… akin to my reaction to phrases such as ‘I’m liking it…’. This quirk aside the book is lucidly written. Whether these shortcomings are just my perceptions or not is not really the point. The point is that this is a ‘must-read’ for every birder.


Buy this book from www.nhbs.com