cover image Around the World in 80 Birds

Around the World in 80 Birds

Mike Unwin. Laurence King, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-85782-895-8

Photographer Unwin (Flights of Passage) takes a tour of 80 bird species in this attractive volume. Unwin surveys a range of birds, from fierce predators such as the Harpy Eagle of South America to beautiful songbirds such as Myanmar’s Gurney’s Pitta. While he offers fascinating facts about, for instance, the hoatzin’s unusual anatomy (which mistakenly led some to consider it the missing link between reptiles and birds), the ornate courtship display of the bird-of-Paradise, and more, Unwin distinguishes this work with his emphasis on birds’ meanings to humans. For example, the chapter on the Bateleur Eagle of Zimbabwe opens with the 1889 discovery by a German hunter of eight sculptures of raptors, revered by the Sona people as messengers of the gods; Unwin makes a case that the statues were modeled after the Bateleur. Another chapter details changing perceptions of the symbiotic relationship between the African yellow-billed oxpecker and their mammal hosts, which is now believed to be less mutual than it was initially, while a section on white terns notes that they “have long proved a useful navigation aid for sailors.” Unwin’s evocative prose is a perfect match for the vivid illustrations. This will be a hit with birdwatchers of all stripes. (June)