Apr 9, 2015

Bird Brainteasers

by Patrick Merrell

Curious and interesting facts about birds, lovely quotes and myriad games and puzzles pack this short volume. The illustrations, done in an ink style reminiscent of old woodcuts, is quite lovely, and I really like the inclusion of a page of dodo sketches, from a 1601 journal kept aboard the ship De Gelderland. I enjoyed working through the crosswords, searches and other word puzzles that all feature bird names. This little book is a quick, fun read (probably would make a great gift for any bird-lover).

Some of the more interesting tidbits I read: when the James Bond character was created, author Ian Flemmings was looking for a very ordinary name and glanced at the cover of his favorite bird book- by James Bond, an ornithologist. Cassowaries are the most dangerous bird- in some zoos they are considered the most dangerous animal. It was also interesting to read about all the different presidents who have kept pet birds, and of many musicians throughout history who have incorporated specific birdsongs in their melodies. Mozart kept a starling, Charles Darwin had a pet crow, Picasso was fond of pigeons. Audubon killed hundreds of birds for collections and to study their anatomy for his paintings. There is a bird I never heard of before, the hooded pitohui, which has poisonous feathers and skin!

My favorite quote, by Henry Ward Beecher: If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.

Rating: 3/5      324 pages, 2008

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