I absolutely love this book as Im fascinated about the advancement we have made and are making in avian biology and behavior. I have always watched and read almost anything I can find on birds over the years and I simply couldn't put this book down as its such an original idea for a book. I have to say its NOT just a book its a concise reference for anyone who loves birds; as it takes you through from Darwin to present day. If your a person who loves a more scientific look at birds you will really appreciate this book. If your a teacher or student, amateur and professional ornithologists you will also find something of interest here. The book follows historical advancements and breakthroughs to debates and mistakes; written in such an entertaining engaging way; it even made me laugh in places. Its an addictive, inspiring read so anyone can enjoy this book you don't need a degree to understand this; just a passion for birds. Read from pigeon pingpong to indepth interviews about the people that made a marked difference to the science of ornithology. It was so interesting to know more about that person and how they came to have a passion for birds. You wont find another book like this and this will be an invaluable record of the history of ornithology for many years to come.
Anyone who loves birds in anyway will really appreciate this stunning reference book, beautifully illustrated and bound with a perfect mix of history, ornithology and science and a fun human aspect to make you smile so you wont be able to put down.
I must say too if you are planning to buy this book get the hardback not the kindle version if you can, you will NOT get the benefit of the stunning illustrations and photos let alone the amazing quality of the binding and stunning cover.
This is a truly remarkable book. It's arranged and written with a verve, clarity, honesty and attractive openness that comes only with a complete command of the field. And the authors do not just understand the science they describe and present the results. They have a total grasp of how it's actually done: of what questions have presented themselves and why, and what questions haven't; of the relations in practice between theory, observation and experiment; of how one thing leads to another, sometimes by reason, sometimes by observation, sometimes by association, sometimes by hunch; of the limitations as well as the gifts of even the most creative investigators, all whom they bring skilfully to life. This is not just the history of a science, though it is that, every bit as illuminating about the national, international, institutional and personal contexts of what it describes, that's to say about the external opportunities and obstacles, as it is about the internalities, of how answers to one question have led to another. It's an analytical narrative that manages to start from scratch and bring even the most naive of readers (as I have been) to the frontiers, and to do so effortlessly, so that one never tires, or has to stop to go back, or to consult another source. A book that informs, excites, is consistently readable and yet never talks down. Indeed it gripped me like a thriller, although it's superior to any fictional thriller in pointing to what isn't solved as well as what is, and in having almost no criminals. As a simple birdwatcher, having picked up bits and pieces of ornithological science over several decades, I can at last see how the bits fit (and where they don't, yet), and am informed about inquiries I previously knew nothing of. I'd be surprised if there are any single-volume analytical histories of any field in biology that can do better than this for a non-scientist. Any, more exactly, that so well explains how the Darwinian picture is being spelt out and filled in. The authors have added useful and interesting ancillary material without unnecessary clutter, and the publishers have done them proud, not least in illustration. This isn't just another of the good books on birds that continue to pour out. On its subject, at least for we amateurs, it must now be THE book.
This fascinating and beautiful book is a must for anyone with a serious interest in birds, ornithology and evolutionary theory.
Topics covered include: the debates surrounding the evolutionary origins of birds; the speciation process; classification; migration; breeding behaviour; sexual selection; learned and instinctive behaviour; population studies; and conservation.
But the book does not just feature the birds and the science. It also tells the story of the human personalities involved in the development of ornithology since Darwin.
For example, there is Ernst Mayr, who was both a field ornithologist and also one of the most important evolutionary theorists of the twentieth century. Mayr was still writing books on evolution when he was in his nineties, and his ideas were particularly important in explaining speciation: the process through which a new species branches off from an already existing one.
Mayr wrote that “... birds are a marvellous stepping-stone in three directions: towards evolution, towards systematics, and towards biogeography.”
Then there are Peter and Rosemary Grant, who carried out a long-term study of the finches on the Galapagos Islands, a study which (like Mayr’s theoretical approach) revealed much about the speciation process through which the finches have diversified.
I’ll just mention one more of the many interesting characters from the book, and that is Rachel Carson. Carson’s book “Silent Spring” (1962) played a crucial role in bringing to public attention the damage being done by DDT and other pesticides. For her pains, she was subjected to vicious attacks by the agrochemical industry and its hired intellectual thugs.
This book is not cheap, but it is well worth the money. I strongly recommend it.