The Genius of Birds

Penguin Pr. Apr. 2016. 327p. notes. ISBN 9781594205217. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101980842. NAT HIST
Ackerman (Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold; Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body) documents the amazing and almost unbelievable abilities of birds to migrate great distances, remember where thousands of food items are stored, and adapt to nonnative areas. Also described are the virtuoso skills of birdsong (some creatures are capable of hundreds of vocalizations) and the artistry of nest builders, such as bowerbirds, which favor artificial blue objects. More than 50 pages of notes support the eminently readable text. Other engaging chapters detail birds' use of tools, problem-solving skills, and intelligence and language-acquiring talents, especially those of some parrots. The author's extensive review of world biological literature, contacts with experts, and global travel enhance this fascinating title. Ackerman demonstrates that in many cases the most successful birds have, perhaps not surprisingly, the largest brains in proportion to body size.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all interested in natural history, behavior, and ecotravel.

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