Jun 25, 2017

The Thing with Feathers

the Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human
by Noah Strycker

Another book about bird behavior, and this one was both fascinating and engaging. A field researcher with a focus on birds, Strycker's musings and hypothesis are based both on his personal observations and the work of other scientists (notes in the appendix are pretty thorough, adding to my list of want-to-reads). He delves into the lives of many species, including starlings, wrens, mockingbirds, penguins, hummingbirds, snowy owls, parrots, bower birds, albatrosses, pigeons, chickens and turkey vultures. The subjects covered in detail include birds' abilities with spatial memory, long-distance navigation, flocking behavior, social orders, habitat dispersion, courtship displays, self-recognition, musical acuity, aggression, pair-bonding and altruism.

I learned a surprising amount of new stuff. Lots of detail about why hummingbirds are so vicious to each other, and how huge flocks of starlings stay cohesive. I had never heard of the Boids program before, and viewing some demos of that was really cool. I didn't know that turkey vultures have a highly developed sense of smell- I though no birds did- but apparently the erroneous notion that they don't was originally based on another vulture species that lacks that sense. I didn't know that penguins fear the dark. Or that bower birds create optical illusions with their structures- while keeping in mind the viewpoint of the female who will judge them! Really intriguing stuff, with a lot of side notes and looks at relevant human behavior as well. Definitely going to look for more books by this author.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5          288 pages, 2014

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love books that teach interesting facts like that!