Bird (Object Lessons)
In this compact, pocket-sized book Erik Anderson, a self-proclaimed avian non-enthusiast, looks at a collection of birds from various regions of the world and cogently describes their habits, appearance, mating rituals while comparing past and present prevalence in their traditional habitats. The author’s role as an outsider permits his focus on the appealing features of these avian forms along with the apparently bizarre sexual routines imprinted into their behavior, and the humans associated with their description as well as their destruction. Short sketches describe a number of species, each bird listed by both common name and taxonomical designation. Penguins’ supposed bizarre sexual encounters identified a century ago are only now recognized as a not-so-unusual practice among birds and other species. Among the interesting characters woven within these bird stories is that of Ian Fleming selecting the name of an English ornithologist, James Bond, for his hero, and the bird plunderers during the Robert E. Peary expedition. Audubon, famous for his illustrations, killed and ate many specimens before one became the model. Unlike human courting, where usually a female tries to entice a male, it is the pirouetting colorful male bird that seeks acceptance by the female. In his engaging writing style, Anderson skillfully introduces the reader to the spectacular world of birds: their behaviors and evolutionary adaptations, but especially the dangers of extinguishing them due to loss of habitat and man’s greed and thoughtlessness.
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