The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology Paperback – 7 Mar 2011
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'There are plenty of writers who have an understanding of natural science, and there are plenty of scientists who try to write. But there are precious few with the combined abilities of Professor Tim Birkhead. His instinct for the stories within ornithology and his gift for making technical matters accessible and simple are rare talents indeed' (Mark Cocker, naturalist and co-author of 'Birds Britannica')
'You would have to be bird-brained not to fall for this history of twitchers and naturalists ... Magnificent' (Sunday Telegraph)
'Wonderful ... [Birkhead] has a historian's grasp of our intellectual past, a storyteller's gift for fine, clear and deceptively simple prose and an instinctive sense of the tales that are worth recounting' (Guardian)
'One of the most entertaining, informative and enthusiastic accounts of the history of ornithology; and of the many different ways in which we have observed, studied and wondered about birds' (Daily Telegraph)
`Tim Birkhead's wonderful book The Wisdom of Birds explores themes such as migration and almost every other facet of avian science.'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Those who have already purchased either of the two recent books which both curiously sported the title A History of Ornithology might anticipate that nothing new will be learnt from this new book - but they'd be wrong. In their books Michael Walters (Christopher Helm 2003) and Peter Bircham (Collins 2008) focused on the individuals behind the development of ornithology while Tim Birkhead is more interested in what they discovered. However he makes an exception for John Ray, the 17th Century naturalist whose Ornithologia was better than anything than had gone before it.
Illustrated throughout with mainly colour illustrations from some of the world's most valuable bird books, this work contains many gems of information. For example in the chapter on birdsong we discover how German foresters used to train young Bullfinches to sing popular song tunes. Other fascinating facts include the example of Ulisse Aldrovandi who, in 1600, discovered that after having its head removed a bird could still vocalise! Perhaps more usefully we discover that Linnets can be trained to sing like Nightingales.
Flitting from discoveries by the likes of Charles Darwin and Francis Willughby to those of David Lack and John Krebs, this book is a real mixture of the facts that we all know already together with many that are hidden away in scientific papers that are rarely accessed. By bringing them together in one place Birkhead has produced an entertaining and topical book.
Special praise for the illustrations which are stunning, many from private collections which we would never otherwise have the chance to see.
Using as his starting point the 16th Century ornithologist John Ray, Birkhead describes how ornithology developed from folklore and superstition into a coherent science. Ray's own book, The Wisdom Of God, provides Birkhead's title, although it is knowledge rather than wisdom which is shown accumulating. As with the sciences dealt with by Rudwick, some knowledge originates from the museum, some from commerce (poultry farmers and hunters), some from what we may call hobbyists (bird keepers) and, eventually, from savants in the field, and like the early geologists, such ornithologists were considered strange birds indeed at first. Far better, some felt, to send a minion out to catch the birds and bring them into the museum than actually sully oneself doing it personally. There is an account of how Ray and his partner Willughby travelled Europe assembling their knowledge-base and library, as did the early geologists, and coincidentally a number of the other people namechecked include some mentioned by Rudwick, most notably the Comte de Buffon and Georges Cuvier.
The account commences, naturally, with the egg, and moves on through chapters dealing with bird intelligence, migration, breeding and territory, and birdsong and its significance.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating facts which will be of interest to all enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys natural history.Published 8 months ago by David Livingstone
I was loaned the book by a friend and decided I wanted my own copy. Very pleased with it. ThankyouPublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
A great book - beautifully presented and illustrated, and a fascinating and interesting read!Published 16 months ago by Geoff Parker
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