A serious exploration of bird life from biologist Tudge (Feeding People Is Easy, 2007, etc.).
The author writes with clarity and cheerful wit about the physics and mechanics of flight, evolution and the archaeological record, while at the same time suffering no fuzziness about the strict nomenclature and precise methods of biology: “The twenty-eight species of Old World orioles—absolutely not to be confused with the New World orioles—form the family Oriolidae.” Tudge appreciates that much remains a great mystery in nature—“The distribution of penises among birds seems somewhat arbitrary and hard to explain”—but he celebrates invention, supposition and anthropomorphism when based on the findings of good science (“The birds twitter for a reason—and it won’t be a frivolous reason”). He warns against judging the effectiveness of conservation efforts by economic standards and condemns the scourge of materialism and boundless ignorance of humans, which has led to the extinction of countless species of birds. “The point of this book,” he writes, “is to nudge people who feel in a general way that birds in particular, and nature in general, are kind of interesting to the point where they start to feel the meaning of it all.” An artful recorder, Tudge delightfully chronicles the everyday life of birds and how they interact with each other and with other animals. He covers the avian landscape like a tarp, from amusing anecdotes about bird behavior, to a critique of behavioralism, to the abuse of Darwin’s theories, to the complex structure of avian taxonomy (“All the Birds in the World: An Annotated Cast List”).
Entertaining, charming and knowledgeable.