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On the Wing

Readers' Cafe

Baby Birds An Artist Looks into the Nest
Bird Sense What It's Like to Be a Bird
Birds Art Life A Year of Observation
Bright Wings An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
The Genius of Birds
The House of Owls
The Living Bird 100 Years of Listening to Nature
Lost Among the Birds Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
The Most Perfect Thing Inside
Of a Feather A Brief History of American Birding
One Wild Bird at a Time Portraits of Individual Lives
Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest / Julie Zickefoose

This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history, something readers have come to expect from Julie Zickefoose. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of seventeen different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on Julie's wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately, and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider's glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition. As an artist and wildlife rehabilitator, Julie possesses a unique skill set that includes sketching and painting rapidly from life as well as handling delicate hatchlings. She is uniquely positioned to create such an opus, and in fact, nothing like it has ever been attempted. Julie has many fans, and she will gain many more with this unparalleled work.

Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird / Tim Birkhead

Most people would love to be able to fly like a bird, but few of us are aware of the other sensations that make being a bird a gloriously unique experience. What is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise? How do desert birds detect rain hundreds of kilometers away? How do birds navigate by using an innate magnetic compass?

Tracing the history of how our knowledge about birds has grown, particularly through advances in technology over the past fifty years, Bird Sense tells captivating stories about how birds interact with one another and their environment. More advanced testing methods have debunked previously held beliefs, such as female starlings selecting mates based on how symmetrical the male's plumage markings are.?

Never before has there been a popular book about how intricately bird behavior is shaped by birds' senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of fieldwork experiences, insights, and a unique understanding of birds, all firmly grounded in science. No one who reads Bird Sense can fail to be dazzled by it.

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation / Kyo Maclear

A writer's search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life - a field guide to things small and significant.When it comes to birds, Kyo Maclear isn't seeking the exotic. Rather she discovers joy in the seasonal birds that find their way into view in city parks and harbors, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Maclear looks to the small, the steady, the slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that leave room for contemplation. A distilled, crystal-like companion to H is for Hawk, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in the urban environment and explores what happens when the core lessons of birding are applied to other aspects of art and life.

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds / Billy Collins

In this beautiful collection of poems and paintings, Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate, joins with David Allen Sibley, America's foremost bird illustrator, to celebrate the winged creatures that have inspired so many poets to sing for centuries. From Catullus and Chaucer to Robert Browning and James Wright, poets have long treated birds as powerful metaphors for beauty, escape, transcendence, and divine expression.

Here, in this substantial anthology, more than one hundred contemporary and classic poems are paired with close to sixty original, ornithologically precise illustrations. Part poetry collection, part field guide, part art book, Bright Wings presents verbal and visual interpretations of the natural world and reminds us of our intimate connection to the "bright wings" around us. Each in their own way, these poems and pictures honor the enchanting creatures that have been, and continue to be, longtime collaborators with the poet's and painter's art.

Poet and bird pairings include: Wallace Stevens and the Blackbird; Emily Dickinson and the Robin; Marianne Moore and the Frigate Pelican; Thomas Hardy and the Goldfinch; Sylvia Plath and the Pheasant; John Updike and the Seagull; Walt Whitman and the Eagle; Billy Collins and the Sparrow.

The Genius of Birds / Jennifer Ackerman

Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence.

In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research - the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states - Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent.


This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science. Ackerman delivers an extraordinary story that will both give readers a new appreciation for the exceptional talents of birds and let them discover what birds can reveal about our changing world. Richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.

The House of Owls / Tony Angell

For a quarter century, Tony Angell and his family shared the remarkable experience of closely observing pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside their forest home. The journals the author recorded his observations in, and the captivating drawings he created, form the heart of this compelling book - a personal account of an artist-naturalist's life with owls. Angell's extensive illustrations show owls engaged in what owls do - hunting, courting, raising families, and exercising their inquisitive natures - and reveal his immeasurable respect for their secret lives and daunting challenges.

Angell discusses the unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought. He also offers detailed scientific descriptions of the nineteen species of owls found in North America, as well as their close relatives elsewhere. Always emphasizing the interaction of humans and owls, the author affirms by his own example the power of these birds both to beguile and to inspire.

The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature / Gerrit Vyn

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERForeword by Barbara KingsolverOver 250 images by acclaimed wildlife photographer Gerrit VynEssays by Jared Diamond, John W. Fitzpatrick, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and Scott Weidensaul

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year / Neil Hayward

Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn't want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job. He didn't want to think about his failed relationship with "the one" or his potential for ruining a new relationship with "the next one." And he almost certainly didn't want to think about turning forty. And so instead he went birding.

Birding was a lifelong passion. It was only among the birds that Neil found a calm that had eluded him in the confusing world of humans. But this time he also found competition. His growing list of species reluctantly catapulted him into a Big Year--a race to find the most birds in one year. ?Neil's Big Year was as unplanned as it was accidental: It was the perfect distraction to life.

The Most Perfect Thing: Inside / Tim Birkhead

The Most Perfect Thing is about how eggs in general are made, fertilized, developed, and hatched. The eggs of most birds spend just 24 hours in the oviduct; however, that journey takes 48 hours in cuckoos, which surreptitiously lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. From the earliest times, the study of birds' ovaries and ova (eggs) played a vital role in the quest to unravel the mysteries of fertilization and embryo development in humans. Birkhead uses birds' eggs as wondrous portals into natural history, enlivened by the stories of naturalists and scientists, including Birkhead and his students, whose discoveries have advanced current scientific knowledge of reproduction.

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding / Scott Weidensaul

Scott Weidensaul traces the colorful evolution of American birding: from the frontier ornithologists who collected eggs between border skirmishes to the society matrons who organized the first effective conservation movement; from the luminaries with checkered pasts, such as convicted blackmailer Alexander Wilson and the endlessly self-mythologizing John James Audubon, to the awkward schoolteacher Roger Tory Peterson, whose A Field Guide to the Birds prompted the explosive growth of modern birding. Spirited and compulsively readable, Of a Feather celebrates the passions and achievements of birders throughout Americcan history.

One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives / Bernd Heinrich

Heinrich (Emeritus, Biology/Univ. of Vermont; The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration, 2014, etc.) smoothly describes how studying the daily lives of birds in their natural environments allows him to experience their world vicariously. Now retired and living in a cabin in the Maine woods, he devotes himself to closely observing "his avian neighbors, visitors, and vagrants, and keep[ing] daily records throughout spring, summer, fall, and winter." Every year, he welcomes a pair of broad-wing hawks who feast at a vernal pond populated by frogs, spring peepers, and salamanders while refurbishing their old nest. Unusually, they provide a fern cover on the nest, which they update on a daily basis after their chicks hatch. Heinrich also includes anecdotes from an earlier time when he still lived in Vermont. Awakened one morning by the loud drumming of a male woodpecker on a nearby apple tree, the author wondered if perhaps he was seeking to attract a female. Surprisingly, when a female was drawn to the sound, he stopped drumming and flew away. The same behavior was repeated the following day. The author's observations led him to conclude that the bird's drumming was not part of a mating ritual but rather a noisy advertisement of his nest-building skills. Vireos nesting near his cabin allowed him to observe how they deliberately reduced the number of eggs they were hatching to accommodate the reduced food supply after an unseasonal freeze. Heinrich explains that bird-watching has been an important part of his life since he was a boy on his family's farm. When he was 6, they moved from Germany to Maine. Finding familiar birds nesting "immediately made this place our home," he writes.

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