The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology
, 2011 - Birds
- 437 pages
For thousands of years people have been fascinated by birds, and today that fascination is still growing. In 2007 bird-watching is one of the most popular pastimes, not just in Britain, but throughout the world, and the range of interest runs from the specialist to the beginner. In The Wisdom of Birds, Birkhead takes the reader on a journey that not only tells us about the extraordinary lives of birds - from conception and egg, through territory and song, to migration and fully fledged breeder - but also shows how, over centuries, we have overcome superstition and untested 'truths' to know what we know, and how recent some of that knowledge is. It was only in the nineteenth century that the ancient belief that swallows hibernated under water (!) finally gave way to general acceptance of the facts of migration. In the same century of dazzling experimental science, even Darwin chose not to dwell on the sexual promiscuity of female birds to spare the blushes of his daughter, who was helping to correct the proofs of The Descent of Man. Conceived for a general audience, and illustrated throughout with more than 100 exquisitely beautiful illustrations, many of them rarely, if ever, seen before, The Wisdom of Birds is a book full of stories, knowledge and unexpected revelations.