by Tim Birkhead
Over the summer we’re going to be showcasing titles from our Recreational Reads Collection for Book of the Week. This week we’ve got Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
What is it like to be a swift, flying at over one hundred kilometres an hour? Or a flamingo sensing invisible rain falling hundreds of kilometres away? Or a kiwi, plodding flightlessly among the humid undergrowth in the pitch dark of a New Zealand night? And what does a gannet feel on being reunited with its partner after a winter apart?
Bird Sense these and many other questions, by describing the senses birds use to interpret their environment and to interact with each other. Our affinity for birds is often said to be the result of shared senses – vision and hearing – but how exactly do their senses compare with our own? And what about a birds’ sense of taste, or smell, or touch or the ability to detect the earth’s magnetic field?
Bird Sense is based on a conviction that we have consistently underestimated what goes on in a bird’s head. Our understanding of bird behaviour is simultaneously informed and constrained by the way we watch and study them. By drawing attention to the way these frameworks both facilitate and inhibit discovery, it identifies ways we can escape from them to seek new horizons in bird behaviour.
A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of observation and an understanding of birds and their behaviour that is firmly grounded in science. In this fascinating book, beautifully illustrated by Katrina van Grouw, he uses that knowledge to explain how birds interpret the world and to show how their behaviour is shaped by their senses.