A few suggestions for holiday gifts, or library upgrades, in the topic of birds.
Thinking About Birds Thinking
Some very interesting books came out this year that investigate bird brains.
Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence by Nathan Emery is the best current book on animal intelligence, and one of the best bird books you’ll be able to lay your hands on right now.
My review of the book is here.
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young is an exploration of nature via the senses (mainly visual and auditory) of birds, and of the reader. I’ve spent a fair amount of time communing with nature, either living with foragers in the Congo, or when I was a kid, being left in the forest by my parents who would drive away quickly, that sort of thing. You learn to read the signs of nature, and part of that is understanding what other animals are understanding, because that is information.
I review Yong’s book here. This is a fantastic book that you will really enjoy if you have any interest at all in nature or birds. Or not. You’ll still enjoy it.
Also check out The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman.
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. Richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.
New this year is the important conservation oriented book Birds in Trouble by Lynn Barber. This is about birds threatened by all manner of things. In particular, she looks at just under 50 species in the US that have specific reasons to be considered as threatened.
Not new this year, but a book that I like so much I always want to mention it (when talking about bird books) is Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin by Birkhead, Wimpenny, and Montgomerie. Check it out. The title says it all.
Waterfowl of North America, Europe and Asia by Sebastien Reeber is one of those bird books you keep handy and use to expand your knowledge of birds laterally. You see a duck, then you explore the duck’s kin globally in this very nice looking and at the same time informative book.
The Crossley Guides
The Crossley ID Guides did not come out in 2016, but I list them here because they are still current, must have, highly innovative and beautiful books. If you don’t have the appropriate guides for your area, get them!
But also by Birkhead, and current, is The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg. From the publishers:
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 a chick emerges and the life cycle begins again.
The image of the owl at the top of the post is a screen grab from this gallery of photos by Ana Miller. I’ve got a couple of original Millers hanging in my library. You should get one too! Makes a great holiday gift.