What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing—What Birds Are Doing, and Why

David Allen Sibley. Knopf, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-95789-4
Ornithologist and illustrator Sibley (The Sibley Guide to Birds) offers a fascinating work that fulfills its goal to “give readers some sense of what it’s like to be a bird.” Through textual and colorfully visual portraits of numerous birds, ranging from the familiar American robin to more obscure species, Sibley explores various aspects of bird biology and behavior, such as hearing, nesting, and mating. He describes how birds rehearse their songs before sharing them with other birds, and then adjust their styles depending upon the audience, with rivals and potential mates hearing dramatically different songs. There are eye-opening facts on almost every page, such as crows’ ability to recognize individual humans and convey among themselves whether those people are friends or foes. Despite decades of studying these animals, Sibley was still surprised, while working on this book, to learn of the complexity of their lives, leading him to conclude that birds’ instincts arise, in part, from humanlike feelings, such as pride and anxiety—a position that he frankly concedes will be rejected by many as anthropomorphic. Nonetheless, even skeptics will emerge with a deeper appreciation of birds, and of what observable behaviors can reveal about animals’ lives. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 03/10/2020
Release date: 04/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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