Phil, Queen's Square | November 1, 2017
When I was a kid I wanted to be an ornithologist. I persuaded my parents to let me join the Audubon Society (I was their youngest member by 50 years it seemed), and remember getting a pair of binoculars so I could see birds up close. And while my career choice at the age of seven hasn’t come to fruition, I still find it fascinating to read about the world of birds
Of course, it’s always good to have a decent identification guide, and this is a good one: Sibley Birds East. It covers all the birds expected to be found in Eastern North America, and would make a handy companion on any exploratory walks in the woods.
Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life explores how the hobby of birding added to her life as she looks for an outlet to cope with the stress of a family trauma. It is a well told and thoughtful story.
The Genius of Birds is a delightful exploration of bird behaviour, from the cleverness of crows to the utter dumbness of emu, (not unlike the breadth of human abilities). It’s science with a focus on storytelling as well as a good synthesis of ideas about bird intelligence.
Tim Birkhead’s Most Perfect Thing is about how eggs in general are made, fertilized, developed, and hatched. 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.
And finally, Mozart’s Starling explores the joys of keeping a pet starling. It’s a cultural history as well as a personal history of birds, Mozart, and politics.