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The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live [Hardcover]

Colin Tudge

Price: £18.41 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Oct 2009
• How are birds so good at flying and navigating?
• Why are birds so like mammals– and yet so very different?
• Did birds descend from dinosaurs, and if so, does that mean birds are dinosaurs?
• How do they court each other and fend off rivals?
• What' s being communicated in birdsong?
• Can we ever know how birds think?

In this fascinating exploration of the avian class, Colin Tudge considers the creatures of the air. From their evolutionary roots to their flying, feeding, fighting, mating, nesting, and communicating, Tudge provocatively ponders what birds actually do–as well as why they do it and how. With the same curiosity, passion, and insight he brought to redwoods, pines, and palm trees in his widely acclaimed book The Tree, Tudge here studies sparrows, parrots, and even the Monkey-eating Eagle to better understand their world–and our own.

There is far more to a bird's existence than gliding gracefully on air currents or chirping sweetly from fence posts–the stakes are life and death. By observing and explaining the complex strategy that comes into play with everything from migration to social interaction to the timing of giving birth to young, Tudge reveals how birds are uniquely equipped biologically to succeed and survive. And he offers an impassioned plea for humans to learn to coexist with birds without continuing to endanger their survival.

Complete with an "annotated cast list" of all the known birds in the world– plus gorgeous illustrations–The Bird is a comprehensive and delightfully accessible guide for everyone from dedicated birders to casual birdwatchers that celebrates and illuminates the remarkable lives of birds.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. A Short History of Nearly Everything...for birds. 4 Feb 2010
By James Atkinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Brilliant book. Like Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, but for birds.

And not just birds as they exist in the here and now, but birds in the historical and fossil record as well. So in addition to discussions of anything having to do with birds, this book also delves deeply into problems of bird taxonomy, including changes that are coming as a result of recent DNA taxonomical work in the field. And you can't have THAT discussion without also reviewing the basics of natural selection and contemporary evolutionary theory, a discussion that, for birds, makes no sense without also discussing plate tectonics, climate, and flora from the most ancient times to the present.

A very wide ranging book, all keyed on what we think is a simple topic, but isn't.

Very readable and perfectly appropriate for amateur enthusiasts, science readers, or birding professionals. One of the book's many strengths is that it covers this vast amount of very technical and arcane knowledge without being a technical or arcane book. Quite enjoyable, actually. Zesty, even.

I'm keeping this around as a reference (it does a great job of reviewing the taxonomical tree as it currently exists, and therefore puts literally every bird on the planet in its current location...and talks about how those locations likely will change in the near future). I'll be giving copies to friends as well.

Excellent achievement.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tudge is a terrific science writer 23 April 2010
By algo41 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Tudge is a terrific science writer. He can summarize concepts clearly without over simplifying, and has an engaging prose style leavened with a sense of humor. At the same time, he has an impressive mastery of the details pertaining to a large number of bird species. He never hesitates to point out the limits of our knowledge, what is still really unresolved, and what is very speculative - it may be the birds are not descended from the dinosaurs, but from a sister line.

Having said all that, I must acknowledge I sometimes skimmed some of the chapters. Then again, I am not a bird watcher.

Tudge narrates the wide variety of bird behaviors, and, fortunately, much has been learned to explain these behaviors. Some examples: I had read an earlier book on bird migration, but the idea that plate tectonics plays a role in some migration routes was new to me, routes being preserved as land masses moved further apart. I loved the explanation for why the pub peacock favored the blue biscuits over other colored biscuits (p.199) - because it makes sense to prefer the more common food and more of the biscuits were blue than other colors. Who cannot be impressed that some nestlings like Indigo Buntings spend their time studying the night sky, or that swan parents become more successful with age and experience?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who likes birds 21 July 2010
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
And if you do, there's a ton of information written in an entertaining way. Some chapters, especially the one on taxonomy, are best as a reference. I found it useful to read them in conjunction with an illustrated guide(there are few illustrations). Others - like the ones on behavior - are both a "fun read" and useful in confirming or explaining your own observations on how birds live their lives among us. I'm not a birder, but a retired scientist and now a gardener, so I'm in the company of birds for a few hours a day. And I live near a major coastal fly way and love to bike out there and observe the visitors. Mr. Tudge has written a book that should appeal to those who love to observe nature.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good but not "Birds 101" 15 Nov 2011
By 5/0 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Bird", by Colin Tudge is quite good, and interesting on several levels. Tudge's British wit and moments of wry commentary add an entertaining spice to the many explorations he leads the reader upon. He provides a nice balance between North American avifauna and "All Other" geographic profiles - a feature that really adds to the book's appeal.
"The Bird" is a book that could be enjoyed by birders at almost any level but I'm certain it will be most appreciated by birders and ecologists etc. whom delve deeply into Ornithology on a regular basis.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit dry 23 Mar 2010
By Enjolras - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Colin Tudge's The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live comes across as a bit dry. It's a comprehensive natural history of birds and covers most varieties, but it almost seems more like an encyclopedia than a popular science book. At times, I felt Tudge had failed to capture the traits that make birds so fascinating - in short, why people would buy his book. It's useful for a general overview on birds, but seems more like a reference book than anything else.

Also, I was somewhat surprised that Tudge gave so much time to the "Birds are not Dinosaurs" crowd. While there are a few dissenters, most scientists agree birds and dinosaurs are closely related. I worried that section of the book might have confused some people.

If you want another book on birds, I recommend Sy Montgomery's Birdology: 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. Montgomery avoids the big picture and zooms in on a few individual species of bird to get a sense of what it means to be a bird. In fact, it seems like a great book to read right after reading The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live.
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