“Bird brained” “Don’t have a bird” “Dumb as a turkey” “Ugly as a crow” “You’re chicken” “What a duck” “Damned Vulture,” these and all other pejorative bird expressions got it totally wrong. Birds have far more going on for them than airborne poop and the taunting and teasing of birders. For the whole world behind the feathers and beak/bill, read Tim Birkhead’s Bird Sense: What It’s Like to be a Bird.
In separate chapters, the author traces the historical research and current understanding of the various senses birds possess, as in seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell, magnetic sense, and emotions. Since we do not have the equipment and body of birds, he readily admits scientific research can only tell us some of what we want to know and that for the rest we must rely upon cautious speculation.
Fair enough, but science is able to tell us a lot of startling, fascinating details. Every chapter will give the reader something new to think about. After reading this book, you can say of your day of birding, you saw 40 species while probably 40 species successfully and perhaps purposely avoided you; and you are pleased with both numbers. You may even be able to explain some of the why-and-wherefore of the numbers. If you don’t talk and talk and talk, your friends will enjoy your sharing of information.
On a personal note, at a gin joint I occasionally visit I met an old friend of the author of Bird Sense, and the friend gave me a photograph of the author in the early years of his long scientific career, at the time he was studying the competence in high school algebra of a large, cage free rooster. Despite the carefully written thirty pages of his study, he has never been able to get it published in any scientific journal in any language, with some editors writing caustic remarks such as, “One rooster does not a scientific study make.”
So I state, here and now, if Tim Birkhead will submit his A Big Rooster’s Competence In High School Algebra” to clarionfriends.wordpress.com I will publish it; however, to fit our format, we can only use three or four fairly short paragraphs rather than the original thirty pages. I hope he understands our constraint. Charles Marlin