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The thing with feathers : the surprising lives of birds and what they reveal about being human

by Strycker, Noah K.,

Format: Print Book 2014
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Summary
An entertaining and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world--and deep connection with humanity.

Birds are highly intelligent animals, yet their intelligence is dramatically different from our own and has been little understood. As scientists come to understand more about the secrets of bird life, they are unlocking fascinating insights into memory, game theory, and the nature of intelligence itself.

The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the deft artistry of bowerbirds, the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the lifelong loves of albatross, and other mysteries--revealing why birds do what they do, and offering a glimpse into our own nature.

Noah Strycker is a birder and naturalist who has traveled the world in pursuit of his flighty subjects. Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, he spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and reveals the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds.

Beautiful and wise, funny and insightful, The Thing with Feathers is a gripping and enlightening journey into the lives of birds.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "*Starred Review* Birds are fascinating, and the more we humans study them, the more similarities we find between ourselves and our feathered neighbors. Strycker, editor of Birding magazine and author (Among Penguins, 2011), here combines the latest in ornithological science with snippets of history and his own vast experience in the field to hatch a thoroughly entertaining examination of bird behavior. Some avian behaviors don't apply to humans the almost magical homing abilities of pigeons, the incredible sense of smell of turkey vultures (as tested by the teenage author with the cooperation of a very dead deer and his extremely tolerant parents) but many seemingly incredible bird actions have parallels in our own lives. Fairy wrens are cooperative breeders and show us one reason humans so often collaborate. The famous pecking order seen in domestic chickens certainly is evident in office politics, and magpies have often been seen holding impromptu funerals for their deceased flock mates. A sulphur-crested cockatoo named Snowball dances in synchrony to his favorite Backstreet Boys CD, leading to a discussion of the role of music for both birds and humans. Birds are equally alien and familiar, and in Strycker's absorbing survey, we find out how much fun it is simply to watch them.--Bent, Nancy Copyright 2014 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Strycker (Among Penguins), associate editor of Birding magazine, gets in his element, writing about his experiences watching penguins in Antarctica, putting out a deer carcass to assess the olfactory capabilities of turkey vultures, and monitoring the nests of purple-crowned fairy-wrens in the Australian outback. His work is a joy to read when he focuses on the interesting behavior of the birds with which he is obviously enamored, such as the astounding homing skills of pigeons, the uncanny talent of thousands of starlings to dart through the sky collectively without crashing into one another, or the ability of male bowerbirds to use sticks and brightly colored objects to assemble decorative structures that look like works of art. His prose is difficult to stop reading. However, when Strycker attempts to draw lessons, as his subtitle implies, about what it means to be human, he is far less successful. In discussing the evolution of music, ties between humans and birds are only loosely limned. Similarly, when he talks about evolutionary theory, from altruism to mating strategies, he presents little that is new or engaging. This will likely be a fascinating book for those captivated by birds but of only marginal interest to those looking for evolutionary insights into human behavior. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Birds -- Behavior.
Bird watching -- Anecdotes.
Human-animal relationships.
Publisher New York :2014
Language English
Description xiv, 288 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 267-280) and index.
ISBN 9781594486357 (hbk.)
1594486352 (hbk.)
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