The Bird Way
‘A celebration of the dizzying variety of bird life and behaviour, one that will enthral birders and non-birders alike’ The Observer
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds, a radical investigation into the bird way of being, and the recent scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds.
‘There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.’ This is one scientist’s pithy distinction between mammal brains and bird brains: two ways to make a highly intelligent mind. But lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviours they’ve previously dismissed as anomalies. What they’re finding is upending the traditional view of how birds live, how they communicate, forage, court, survive. They’re also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own – deception, manipulation, kidnapping, infanticide, but also, ingenious communication between species, collaboration, altruism and play.
Some of these behaviours are biological conundrums that seem to push the edges of – well – birdness: A mother bird that kills her own infant sons, and another that selflessly tends to the young of other birds. Young birds that devote themselves to feeding their siblings and others so competitive they’ll stab their nestmates to death. Birds that give gifts and birds that steal, birds that dance or drum, that paint their creations or paint themselves, and birds that summon playmates with a special call – and may hold the secret to our own penchant for playfulness and the evolution of laughter.
Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect, in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behaviour, birds vary. It’s what we love about them.
‘Biologist and bestselling author Jennifer Ackerman knows what she’s talking about . . . Chapter by meatily evidence-based chapter, she lays out the assumptions that underpin our understanding of birds – and then pecks them apart . . . Her knack for catching the personalities of different species in gorgeous, playful prose further collapses comfortable barriers between the human and the birdlike . . . More than it is a book about birds – and it is, indisputably, a book about birds – The Bird Way is about diversity and tolerance. A little bird told me that’s just what we need in 2020’ Daily Telegraph, ***** (Five Stars)
‘Jennifer Ackerman is not a field researcher, but with her eye for a great story she converts the scientific findings of others into popular books. The real joy of her book is its close attention to some of the specialists of the region . . . Ackerman is also alive to the humour at play in field research’ Mark Cocker, The Spectator
Ackerman has collected a wealth of fascinating anecdotes to bolster her point . . . The book never comes across as excessively academic. The Genius of Birds isn't just for experts and enthusiasts on our feathered friends. There are plenty of surprising and curious facts to keep the casual reader pecking at it. * The Times on The Genius of Birds * If you're a bird lover, this enchanting book is a must. If you're not, Ackerman's enthusiasm will make you an instant convert. * Daily Mail on The Genius of Birds * This book is a delight . . . Like a brainy corvid, we can learn much from this book . . . Ackerman has a florid turn of phrase, and she revels in it . . . There is another world of intelligence out there, and this is a great introduction to it * The Guardian on The Genius of Birds * [Ackerman's] exhilarating book will leave you as awestruck by the complexities and contradictions of bird life as she is * San Francisco Chronicle * From tales of dazzling plumage to anecdotes about almost unfathomable mimicry, Jennifer Ackerman's The Bird Way is a walk through the mysteries, wonders, and peculiarities of the avian world [. . . ] Ackerman's excitement and love for it are evident in her writing. Her superb storytelling paints a rich picture that engages the reader's imagination, making sometimes-hard-to-grasp research accessible * Science Magazine * Ackerman's new book reminds us that we have a lot in common with birds - like us, they are capable of deception and manipulation, not to mention cooperation, culture and communication * The Washington Post * In The Bird Way, Jennifer Ackerman digs deeper and ranges farther into bird behaviour, pulling tasty stories out of rich ground as she hops across the continents [ . . . ] Like a bowerbird, Ms. Ackerman gathers and displays treasures to amaze and delight - then lets the scientists' stories take center stage [. . .] Refreshingly, Ackerman spotlights a number of female researchers * Wall Street Journal * Quirky, poetic . . . biologist and bestselling author Jennifer Ackerman knows what she's talking about . . . Chapter by meatily evidence-based chapter, she lays out the assumptions that underpin our understanding of birds - and then pecks them apart . . .Her knack for catching the personalities of different species in gorgeous, playful prose further collapses comfortable barriers between the human and the birdlike . . . More than it is a book about birds - and it is, indisputably, a book about birds - The Bird Way is about diversity and tolerance. A little bird told me that's just what we need in 2020. * Daily Telegraph, ***** FIVE STARS * The American author Jennifer Ackerman is not a field researcher, but with her eye for a great story she converts the scientific findings of others into popular books. The Bird Way builds on her previous volume The Genius of Birds (2016), already considered a classic. The new book, while offering a global survey of the latest research into the lives of birds, focuses on Australasia, and confronts the prejudice of so much Euro-American ornithology . . . The real joy of her book is its close attention to some of the specialists of the region . . . Ackerman is also alive to the humour at play in field research. * Mark Cocker, The Spectator * This book is a celebration of the dizzying variety of bird life and behaviour, one that will enthral birders and non-birders alike . . . The science here is hard, compelling and presented in Ackerman's engaging and jargon-free prose, and on every page there is evidence to support the book's thesis . . . The Bird Way crystallises and threads together these revelations into a book full of wonders large and small. * The Observer (Alex Preston) *
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