Feb 27, 2020


by Sy Montgomery

Another great book. I think I'm spoiling myself! The subtitle kind of tells it all with this one: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur. The "living dinosaur" is a cassowary, surprisingly difficult to find. The author traveled to areas of Australia where cassowaries were known to lurk, but barely caught a glimpse of one before returning home. Relates what she learned from the locals about them, which isn't a lot- the giant birds are very elusive and actually dangerous, which makes them difficult to study so they're still fairly unknown. The other chapters are more personal- she tells about her own flock of chickens- their intelligence, keen observation and social conniving. And the surprising differences between her flock and the chickens a tenant brought to her property- which in the end she attributes to flock "culture" handed down by the original group of hens. Next Montgomery visits a woman who cares for orphaned hummingbirds, then gets up close with birds of prey with a falconer, hangs out with some pigeon fanciers (who race the birds), meets Griffon a parrot who is part of a language study (started with Alex), and visits a city that has been inundated by a huge number of crows- to the delight of some residents and the consternation of others. There's a lot of intriguing stuff about each of the bird species detailed here- the fierce, riveting intensity of hawks, the amazing stamina and physical ability of pigeons, the incredible delicacy and keen aggressiveness of minute hummingbirds. The wry humor and sharp intelligence of parrots- a famous one who dances to music is prominently featured here. And the strong social bonds and ingenuity of crows.

This book enriches a lot of others I've read not so long ago on the same species: Hummingbirds: My Winter Guests by Arnette Heidcamp, H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, Once Upon a Flock by Lauren Scheuer, Pigeons by Andrew Blechman, The Parrot Who Owns Me by Joanna Burger and  Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg; Bird Brain by Nathan Emery. I have no basis of comparison for the cassowaries- which made it all the more intriguing, to read about them! Definitely would like to add a copy of this to my permanent shelf someday.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5             260 pages, 2010

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