The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker

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The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker

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Category: Animals and Wildlife
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A fascinating glimpse into the mysterious world of birds. Written with warmth and enthusiasm, it was hard to put this book down.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Souvenir Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780285642799

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Sometimes it is easy to overlook the wonder all around us. For example, that scruffy looking starling sitting on your garden fence may look unassuming and commonplace, but type murmuration into the search bar on Youtube and prepare to be mesmerised as a huge flock of the birds perform a gracefully hypnotic aerial ballet which has an almost alien quality. If we take time to stop and look at our feathered friends, we will see that they are anything but ordinary. The bird world is full of unsolved mysteries that humans are only now beginning to unravel: How do pigeons navigate? How do vultures find food? What are penguins afraid of? How do nutcrackers find their hidden food caches? The Magic and Mystery of Birds searches for the answers to these questions, as well as many more, opening our eyes to the hidden world of birds.

Author Noah Stycker has an infectious enthusiasm for the ornithological world and it shines through in his writing. He has travelled the world to participate in bird-related projects as diverse as tagging Antarctic penguins, observing albatross in the Galapagos and photographing the colourful bower-bird in the Australian outback. He speaks with warm fondness about birds and their behaviour and his writing is littered with personal anecdotes and fascinating facts that make the book hard to put down.

My favourite anecdote was about the time when he wanted to photograph vultures in his back garden. He spent weeks searching the roads and verges hoping to find a suitable bait with which to lure these scavenger birds. After weeks of searching, he found a bloated deer carcass by the side of the road and proceeded to haul the maggot-ridden cadaver into the back of his car, drive home and place it in the centre of the garden, much to the bemusement of his poor parents. His persistence paid off, and soon his back garden was an all-you-can-eat vulture buffet and he got the shots he needed.

Strycker gives each bird a dedicated chapter and his subjects range from lowly pigeons and chickens to awe-inspiring hummingbirds and buzzards. Each has a story to tell and the author examines bird behaviour to draw parallels between the bird world and the human world. For example, are we humans unique in being able to produce art? One could argue that the intricate bowers painstakingly created by the Australian bower-bird could indeed be considered works of art. Can birds be capable of altruism? A study of the co-operative nesting behaviours of the fairy-wren may suggest so. And the big question - can birds fall in love - may be answered by examining the mating habits of the albatross, one of the few birds that mates for life.

I really enjoyed reading this book and it would appeal to anyone with a love and fascination for birds and the natural world. My only criticism is that the cover is quite plain and as a result it could be easily overlooked on a shelf in a bookshop, which would be a terrible shame. Maybe the publishers should have taken a hint from the bower-bird and created an attention-grabbing cover that invites people to take a closer look.

If the chapter Hummingbird Wars sparked your interest in these jewel-like birds, we recommend Hummingbirds: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species by Michael Fogden, Marianne Taylor and Sheri L Williamson.

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Buy The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker at


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