Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Review: Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead

Bird Sense: What It's Like to be a Bird is my kind of book. The central question is there in the title: What is it like to be a bird? What do birds sense? How do their senses operate?

Birkhead makes it clear early on that there is no one answer to this question: Different birds have different sensory arrays and approach the world accordingly. Kiwis use their sense of smell a lot; owls use their eyes; oilbirds navigate like bats, using echolocation, and so it goes. The book chapters are divided by sense, with on chapter covering sight, one hearing, one smell, and so on; there is even a chapter on emotions, detailing the physiological and observational accounts of bird emotion.

For each sense, Birkhead gives a short history of the study of the sense, generally focusing primarily on one bird. He describes the way the sense has been studied, what discoveries have been made when and by whom. Anecdote and information are mixed perfectly, keeping the book highly informative and enjoyable. Birkhead clearly respects both birds and readers. He explains matters clearly, never giving any sense of talking down to or about anyone. Bird Sense is both information-dense and comprehensible.

Highly recommended.

Links of Interest:
Bird Sense on Amazon


  1. This sounds like a book I'd really like. I'm currently reading a book about a golden eagle, written from the bird's viewpoint, and it's wonderful at giving an idea how the bird might perceive things.

    1. Which book?

      And, yes, Bird Sense is good!

      I'm currently reading What a Plant Knows which is all about how plants sense the world--solid stuff.

  2. Perfect! I've got this one slated next, waiting on the dining room table (aka the book repository) to be read after my current read. Now I'm looking forward to it even more. I do so love birds.

  3. Ooh, I want to read that plant book too! The one I've got in my hands is simply called The Golden Eagle, it's by Robert Murphy.

  4. Jean--it was good, though not terribly light reading. My review of What a Plant Knows is up on The Geek Girl Project now.