Books by Bernd Heinrich

WHITE FEATHERS by Bernd Heinrich
Released: Feb. 18, 2020

"Definitely one for dyed-in-the-wool bird lovers."
A search for the answer to a seemingly trivial question—why do tree swallows line their nests with white feathers?—reveals much about the nesting behavior of these wild birds but even more about the lifestyle of a dedicated scientist. Read full book review >
A NATURALIST AT LARGE by Bernd Heinrich
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: May 8, 2018

"Heinrich's personal touch and breadth of knowledge make this a satisfying outing for armchair naturalists."
A collection of essays on plants and animal biology and behavior by a scientist who is also a prolific, prizewinning author. Read full book review >
ONE WILD BIRD AT A TIME by Bernd Heinrich
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 12, 2016

"An engaging memoir of the opportunities for doing scientific research without leaving one's own backyard."
An eminent biologist shares the joys of bird-watching and how observing the anomalous behaviors of individual birds has guided his research. Read full book review >
THE HOMING INSTINCT by Bernd Heinrich
NON-FICTION
Released: April 8, 2014

"A special treat for readers of natural history."
A noted naturalist explores the centrality of home in the lives of humans and other animals. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 19, 2012

"If you can't spend an afternoon watching beetles and hearing Heinrich's stories on how nature recycles its dead, this book is the next best thing."
Heinrich (Biology Emeritus/Univ. of Vermont; The Nesting Season: Cuckoos, Cuckolds and the Invention of Monogamy, 2010, etc.) explores the taboos and relevance of scavengers, the "life-giving links that keep nature's systems humming along smoothly." Read full book review >
SUMMER WORLD by Bernd Heinrich
NON-FICTION
Released: April 7, 2009

"As with the author's Winter World (2003), Heinrich presents natural science at its engaging best."
Heinrich (The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology, 2007, etc.) gets intimate with the plants and animals of summer. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Jan. 10, 2003

"The stories are plain engrossing—in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration. (Drawings throughout)"
An array of ways to beat the cold when central heating isn't an option, from National Book Award nominee Heinrich (Racing the Antelope, 2001, etc.). Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: May 1, 2001

"Flooding off these pages is a man who loves his life, brimming with curiosity and deeply respectful of the creatures and environment around him. (Line drawings by the author)"
An intriguing and entertaining exploration into the things that runners can learn from animals. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: May 5, 1999

Still wild about ravens after all these years, award-winning zoologist Heinrich (Univ. of Vermont; The Trees in My Forest, 1997, etc.) continues his investigations into the big crow's behavior. What makes ravens tick, or, if you prefer, quork? What fires their love of baubles, their delight in tomfoolery? Why have so many cultures portrayed the birds as creators and destroyers, prophets and clowns and tricksters? Are they sentient? Do they scheme? To what use do they put that sizable brain? Heinrich has shared a lot of forest time with ravens over the years, trying to gain perspective on these questions. He has come away with an admittedly incomplete if anecdotally rich picture of the bird, one that bears up the historical image of a canny creature that trumps our expectations. Here is a bird that willingly incubates eggs that are obviously not its own, the smart guy falling for the oldest parasitic trick in the book. Yet here is also a bird that can sit down at the table, to a nicely fatted calf, say, with wolves and golden eagles, animals that are known to serve raven when the calves are scarce. Heinrich freely shares the glimmerings of real understanding he has made—much the same way as ravens share food finds (in apparent, and typical, anti-evolutionary spirit)—including the exploratory/carnal fixation the raven has with bijouterie, and how many ravens it takes to fish the Yellowstone River for cutthroat. But when it comes to measuring the ravens' intelligence, Heinrich suggests it would be folly to do so in human terms: We are, in effect, culturally incomparable, and for all the seeming pleasure we take in one another's company, how the bird goes about interpreting the world remains closed to us, enigmatic and contradictory as ever. Left unsaid in this learned study is how many hours Heinrich sat motionless in the deep-space cold of a Maine winter to gather these observations. There lies the gauge of his enterprise, understanding, and passion. (illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >
THE TREES IN MY FOREST by Bernd Heinrich
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

This lyrical testament to the stunning complexity of the natural world also documents one man's bid to make a difference on his own little patch of land. Heinrich (One Man's Owl, 1987, etc.) bought 300 acres of logged-over Maine woods in 1975 and set out to restore its ecological diversity. A professor of biology at the University of Vermont, he uses the farm as retreat, classroom, and research lab. Heinrich is a detective in the woods. He infers from the presence of pin cherries the location of old pastures and dates a 19th- century forest fire by examining growth rings and charcoal deposits. His scientific method is wide-ranging and inclusive, drawing on engineering, mathematics, zoology, biochemistry, forestry, and economics, encompassing both micro and macro views. For the former he scrutinizes saplings under a microscope and details the biochemical process by which trees manufacture wood. The big picture spurs musings on the vast interconnectedness of nature as he traces the mind-bogglingly complicated symbiotic relationships among plants, animals, and natural forces like wind and sunlight. Heinrich uses simple sketches to illustrate his explanations of the ingenious design, growth strategies, and reproductive methods employed by trees in their quest for survival. In his ultimate goal of creating a forest, a place of ``habitat complexity'' vastly different from the sterile monocultures planted by paper companies in the name of sustainable forestry, he succeeds admirably. It's a pleasant surprise, then, to learn that in the end Heinrich does well by doing good: Not only is he rewarded with a diverse plant and wildlife population, he also reaps a cash profit from responsible logging. Heinrich tells us more about trees than we'd ever dream of wondering, yet manages to transform the esoterica into a fascinating tribute to nature's superior design. Read full book review >
A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS by Bernd Heinrich
NON-FICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

Heinrich's tedious personal account of 12 long months holed up in the wilderness of western Maine is so didactic and self-involved that it makes the reader want to hightail it to the nearest strip mall, where people are at least what they seem. Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, 1989, etc.), a zoologist tired of paper pushing at the University of Vermont, retreats to the New England woods to see the world up close. He chops down trees, assembles a log cabin, digs a latrine, and plants vegetables. But for all his posturing, this hideaway for do-it-yourselfers is not so solitary or so rustic. A newspaper arrives at his mailbox daily (he claims it's necessary so that he can start his morning fire); and he installs a telephone and answering machine in his neighbors' outhouse. Most of Heinrich's days are spent watching his pet raven, Jack, eat the roadkill he has lovingly collected for the bird while fondly recalling meals of run-over muskrat and raccoon he himself consumed in college; calculating the number of seeds a young birch has to shed (2,415,000); creating endless lists of the colors of fall leaves (``light lemon yellow,'' ``yellow with dot-sized red speckles,'' etc.); counting and counting the black cluster flies that invade his cabin (12,800, or ``nine and a half cups full, level''); explaining how to prepare braised mice (``pull the skins off and the guts out'' and throw them in a little olive oil); and making flatulent observations like ``Life is not a spectator sport.'' Heinrich should have learned a lesson from the mountain men he calls his heroes: ``tough men, who did not write books about their exploits, or even talk of them.'' Banality posing as self-knowledge. More boring than Walden. Read full book review >