For most of us, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the main guest – the turkey. Whether roasted, deep-fried, grilled, or shish-ka-bobbed, it almost doesn’t matter how it’s prepared, it’s always the star attraction. I mean, one of the nicknames for Thanksgiving is “Turkey Day,” which just shows you how seriously we take this All-American bird. No other bird is so honored (though, there are a ton of them featured in the Twelve Days of Christmas, and what would we do without baby chicks at Easter?)
It’s possible that the other birds feel slighted – after all, even the President pardons one turkey each year. So, to honor some other members of the avian class, here’s a list of books all about birds. Sit down with one of these over the holiday – but maybe not while you’re enjoying leftovers.
- The story of a famous African Grey parrot documents his thirty-year relationship with his trainer and the ways in which his life has changed scientific understanding about language and thought.
- Combines popular science with personal anecdotes as the author describes her encounters with a range of avian personalities from various parts of the world.
Dodo: A Brief History – Errol Fuller
- Examines the dodo, a bird native to Mauritius which became extinct after the arrival of Dutch and Portuguese sailors to the island in the sixteenth century, and looks at the mystique that continues to surround the dodo.
- An inspiring story describes how a dedicated man lovingly nursed a young eaglet with two broken wings back to health, and how this majestic bird later inspired him to triumph over his own life-threatening condition.
- Reveals how passenger pigeons have become extinct and how no serious effort was made to protect this species that inspired awe in the likes of John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, and James Fenimore Cooper until it was too late.
- Offers insight into crows ability to make tools and respond to environmental challenges, explaining how they engage in human-like behaviors from giving gifts and seeking revenge to playing and experiencing dreams.
The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker – Tim Gallagher
- In this birder’s adventure story a writer and photographer chases after the ivory-billed woodpecker, the “ghost bird” of the swamp, reconstructing his search for a bird that was once declared extinct.
- An account of an astonishing human-turkey relationship.
- Describes the efforts of a few determined villagers in Belize, led by Sharon Matola, the head of the Belize Zoo, to stop attempts to build a huge dam that would destroy one of Central America’s great rivers and the last scarlet macaws in Belize.
- A study of the transcontinental migration of the peregrine falcon follows the majestic raptors from the Texas barrier islands to the Arctic and then back south through Mexico, Belize, and the Caribbean, with chronicling his own adventures along the way.
Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga Of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird – Andrew D. Blechman
- A study of pigeons and the people who both love and loathe them examines the natural history of this ubiquitous bird and explores the world of pigeon racing and breeding, and the radical “pro-pigeon underground” in New York City.
- Chronicles the story of conservationist David Wingate and his efforts to single-handedly bringing back the Bermuda petrel, a seabird thought to be extinct until the early twentieth century.
The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong – Donald E. Kroodsma
- Is their song a language? If so, what do they say? Kroodsma (ornithology emeritus, U. of Massachusetts) focuses on only a few of the ten thousand species of singing birds on this earth, but by doing so he thoroughly explains the basics in these 30 personal journeys over 30 years. He explains how, when and where birds sing, starting with birds we hear daily.
- Explores the remarkable lives of migratory birds and answers such questions about songbirds as where do they go, how do they get there, and what do they do in the places that they inhabit throughout the year.
- An unlikely birder traces his indoctrination into the hobby by a pair of obsessive fellow enthusiasts and their zealous nation-wide search for rare and noteworthy species, in an account that describes their haphazard encounters with human and natural challenges.
- A fun and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world–and deep connection with humanity.
- Traces the life of John James Audubon, his efforts to record the wild birds of North America, and his fifteen-year struggle against a conventional scientific establishment to find a publisher for his masterwork, “The Birds of America.”.
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl – Stacey O’Brien
- In this touching memoir, biologist and owl expert Stacey O’Brien introduces Wesley the Owl, a once-abandoned baby owl who was rescued by Stacey. Together, they’ve built a remarkable friendship over the past nineteen years.
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