Glowing praise for birds from the prolific nature writer and novelist, who is filled with great affection and admiration for our feathered friends.
Former Times (London) chief sportswriter Barnes (Ten Million Aliens: A Journey Through the Entire Animal Kingdom, 2013, etc.) writes that these gravity-defying winged creatures of flight are what we humans want to be. Besides delighting our eyes and ears, they help to give meaning to our lives. “Birds,” he writes, “more than any other group of living things, draw us into the world beyond humanity.” They teach us not just about flight (“flight envy is part of the human condition”), but also about color (feathers), music (songs), time and place (annual migrations), and killing and death (raptors). They pervade our myths and stories as powerful symbols (the eagle, the dove), and they have long provided us with sustenance. Chickens, writes our knowledgeable, eloquent, and opinionated guide, tell the story of mankind, from the beginnings of civilization to the gruesome technology used by the fast-food industry. Throughout, beautiful black-and-white illustrations, many taken from a variety of 19th-century sources, complement the author’s witty, conversational prose. Besides arguing that birds have helped us understand our lives and our world—e.g., the birds that clued Charles Darwin in to the idea that species could alter; new migration patterns that demonstrate climate change—Barnes writes with urgency that birds need us more than ever. In the final chapters, the author discusses extinctions and near extinctions and threatened bird populations that have been rescued by human actions. Yes, writes Barnes, birds need people, but people need birds, too.
Previously published in England, the book may have greater resonance with those more familiar with the birds, organizations, and conservation efforts there, but the core message of this delightful book will appeal to birders everywhere.