Beguiling stories from a naturalist’s life with backyard birds.
“For most of my life, I’ve tried to fix broken birds,” writes painter and songbird rehabilitator Zickefoose (Backyard Birding, 2011, etc.) in this account of her rescues of cardinals, robins and more than 20 other bird species. For nearly 30 years the author has opened her bird-mother arms to the songbird of the moment, invariably an orphaned or injured nestling that must be fed every 20 to 45 minutes for several weeks. Over the years, as a regular contributor to Bird Watcher’s Digest and NPR’s All Things Considered, she has described her many encounters with these feathered creatures. The stories gathered here, accompanied by the author’s watercolors and sketches, convey Zickefoose’s strong affection for her charges and her ceaseless wonderment at the mysteries of their lives. “I live for the moment when my gaze meets a bird’s,” she writes. The birds are a disparate lot: the starlings with their imitations of car alarms and barking dogs; the potentially home-wrecking chickadees; the lean and sinewy ospreys; the barn sparrows that haunt the eaves of large home-improvement stores. Nothing is lost on author. She keeps a pair of binoculars in each room of her house and travels to beaches, salt marshes and the Central Flyway to observe the behaviors of these wild birds. Although possibly extinct, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is too beautiful to be gone forever, she writes, and the totemic vulture simply makes her smile. Describing her songbirds with a delicacy of words and brush strokes, Zickefoose makes learning about birds seem like the adventure of a lifetime.
A wonderful treat for birders.