Bird Sense

What It's Like To Be a Bird
Bird Sense: What It's Like To Be a Bird. Walker. May 2012. c.288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781802779663. $25. SCI
This book helps readers understand what it's like to be something else—in this case, a bird. Ornithologist Birkhead (animal behavior & history of science, Univ. of Sheffield, UK; The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology) writes about avian senses, with chapters on seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell, magnetic sense, and emotions. He illustrates the history of scientific thought regarding birds' senses. Birkhead argues that it is difficult for humans to imagine themselves as birds because birds see a different ultraviolet spectrum, hear at higher frequencies, and somehow sense the earth's magnetic field. Moving among field locations (e.g., New Zealand, Florida, Atlantic islands), he illustrates the abilities of birds and their survival techniques, and, in the postscript, describes how all their senses function together.
VERDICT Birkhead provides fascinating information for birders and naturalists, but his story often lacks smooth transitions between topics. His jargon may be unfamiliar to nonbirders, and because the author is British some terminology is different from American usage. Still, birders, naturalists, animal scientists, and students will be interested.
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