- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2 Feb. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1408820137
- ISBN-13: 978-1408820131
- Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 2.8 x 14.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 75 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012
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Touching (The Sunday Times Books of the Year)
An absolutely absorbing book. On almost every page there is an astonishing observation or revelation. ***** (Daily Telegraph)
Combining a wealth of bird facts with a winning modesty in the face of these creatures' essential mysteriousness, Bird Sense is a richly persuasive volume. This fascinating book has much to teach us, not just about what it means to be a bird, but about the rewards and responsibilities of our coexistence with these wonderful creatures (Guardian, Books of the Year)
We'll never know what it's really like to be a bird but Tim Birkhead's readable book takes us as far as science can take us, through an examination of how birds see, hear, smell and taste their world (Peter Marren, Independent Books of the Year)
An eye-opening guide to all matters ornithological ... His tour of the frontiers of our understanding of birds is stuffed with mind-boggling facts and insights. Thoroughly engaging, it also gives us a thrilling sense of the vast, unmapped territories that lie beyond, waiting to be discovered (Sunday Times)
Chirpy and fascinating study about the mysteries of bird behaviour (Sunday Times ‘Must Reads')
If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a bird then Tim Birkhead's wonderful book Bird Sense looks at the sensory apparatus of birds and how they interpret the world (Choice)
Inspired ... bringing together of all the latest scientific research on avian sight, sound, touch and taste as well as smell, along with some senses which are beyond human capabilities altogether ... if you pick up Bird Sense, however wise you think you are, you'll learn something new (Independent)
Combining a wealth of bird facts with a winning modesty in the face of these creatures' essential mysteriousness, Bird Sense is a richly persuasive volume ... This fascinating book has much to teach us, not just about what it means to be a bird, but about the rewards and responsibilities of our coexistence with these wonderful creatures (Guardian)
The effect of his brisk but sparklingly lucid pages is to refocus the point of view on to us and force a rethink as to what it's like to be a human sharing the earth with such wonderfully different and yet recognisably similar animals (Tim Dee, Observer)
A hugely engaging book about birds, their senses and behaviour that is informed by an attractive blend of personal experience, entertaining stories and cutting-edge science.See all Product description
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Such things as the sense of smell, here based in an experiment by Bernice Wenzil described on p 148 re wood pigeons....we can also notice noticed this, by observation, and also of colour, one of the regular garden visitors here (avian!) is terrified by a grey mix sweater but not bright colours, and of sound - tones, and pigeons can judge from a wing style whether it is a hawk or gull above - like a well trained RAF pilot. Then take off to reach up to a hundred miles an hour, with no hesitation re direction.... Impressive. They also have a sense of taste - or the regular visitor we have had for five years certainly has. The book is nice easy read, so read it, but if we 'stand and stare ' without our human arrogance, we will learn a lot and become humble...And probably vegetarian!
We are not the only species with personality...we know this from our dogs and cats, of course! The Birds horror book and Hitchcock film is also instructive. I guess I had hoped for more formal science, but it us still a nice anecdotal relaxing read for bedtime or train journey.
But this one is. Absolutely fascinating. Not only is Tim Birkhead clearly an expert scientist and bird authority but he tells the story of each of the senses from the discoveries of ages past to current state of the art research.
And his descriptions and stories of the characters who observed and studied each of the senses gives the book a real depth. For example the larger than life character Audobon - the illegitimate son of a French sea captain and a servant girl who was born in Haiti in 1785. He made his living from bird illustrations and became a success with his art in Liverpool. He carried out exotic experiments on turkey vultures sense of smell. These led to Richard Owen in 1837 dissecting turkey vultures and revealing their trigeminal nerve to be particularly large - smell not sight was their major source of direction.
Some of the discoveries - like the very high pitched radar like sounds emitted and received by bats - came from tangential experience. Sir Hiram Maxim, after the sinking of the Titanic in 1921, developed very low frequency echo sounding to locate icebergs. He was the first to suggest that bats may use sounds inaudible to the human ear to navigate in total darkness, contradicting the conventional belief that bats navigated by touch . It was not until the 1940's that the bats echolocation system was confirmed.
Each sense is investigated in detail with different species relying to a greater or lesser extent on different senses: with owls, hearing, with gannets sight, with kiwis smell and touch, with the incubation of eggs tactile sensitivity.
The ingenuity of the observations and experiments is combined with cutting edge science involving brain imaging, fitting birds with GPS and touch and temperature sensors. It is probably the magnetic sense - how do migrant birds not just navigate but establish their position - and extent of emotional sense where controversy continues to rage most strongly.
This book must be the reference for the current state of knowledge on bird senses. But Birkhead concludes that the understanding of the human sensory system is advancing in leaps and bounds and the golden age of sensory research in birds is still to come. No doubt Birkhead himself will be in the vanguard. And I hope he writes a sequel to reveal the next discoveries in bird sensibility.
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