Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds by Wenfei Tong and Mike Webster
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|Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds by Wenfei Tong and Mike Webster|
|Category: Animals and Wildlife|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: An exquisitely-presented and informative look at the family life of birds. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: March 2020|
|Publisher: Ivy Press|
I was a little perturbed when I looked at the blurb for Bird Love on a couple of on-line booksellers: exploring the sex life of birds it said. I very nearly passed over the book, but a closer examination suggested that the book is about the family life of birds, which is rather different. If the book was confined to the sex life of birds, you would be missing an opportunity to understand how birds live day-to-day, bring up their families and cope in the wild. Not only that, you have missed the treat of so many beautiful illustrations about a wide variety of birds which run through this book from the first page to the last.
Superficially, it might seem that everything to do with birds is harmonious, without any suggestion of conflict but this is far from the truth. For example, if you are unlucky enough to be the second fledgeling in the nest you could find that your older brother or sister could be quite brutal as their aim is to survive rather than nurture. On the other hand, some species collaborate as a group to ensure that as many fledgelings as possible survive. There are even examples of role reversal where the male takes the dominant role in bringing up the chicks: nature discovered house husbands long before humans did so. How many of us knew that female albatrosses can have same-sex partnerships lasting twenty years?
This book is a timely reminder of the damage that humans can cause to the birds' environment. The decline and eradication of species is something which should all be aware of, and do our best to reverse. Wenfei Tong tells us that climate change has affected the migratory patterns of many birds. There are ten thousand species of birds, but the common cuckoo has declined by half in just twenty-five years. It could, of course, be argued that this is good news those birds which have been unwilling hosts in the past.
The coverage of Bird Love is extensive. It looks at ecology and mating systems, courtship, nests and eggs, raising chicks, sex-role reversals, group breeding and brood parasitism (think cuckoos on that one). Once you realise this, it becomes obvious that this is not a 'coffee-table book', as its appearance might suggest, but a serious look at the family life of birds. It is quite technical in places and you will need to work at it to get the most out of it, but I was surprised by how much information was delivered in an accessible fashion.
I found the book fascinating: it's the type of book which can intensely annoy other people because you're constantly telling them about what you're reading: Did you know that house sparrows and house finches use cigarette butts to keep their nests free of lice? I'd like to thank the publishers for giving me this opportunity.
If you'd like to know more about birds we can recommend The Little Book of the Dawn Chorus by Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington, for those who are interested in birdsong, Owls: A Guide to Every Species by Marianne Taylor which is published by Ivy Press and is just as exquisite as Bird Love and The Big Bird Spot by Matt Sewell, which children will enjoy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds by Wenfei Tong and Mike Webster at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Bird Love: The Family Life of Birds by Wenfei Tong and Mike Webster at Amazon.com.
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