What is a bird? An Exploration of Anatomy, Physiology, Behavior and Ecology – Review


A comprehensive overview of the birds, with clearly written explanations and lavish photographs and diagrams on every page

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Everywhere we go we are surrounded by birds. We eat them, keep them as pets, watch them, and they inspire our technologies, arts and religions, but at the same time, we humans are responsible for the most serious threats faced by many species of life. ‘birds. Our actions have wiped out some birds from Earth forever – iconic birds such as the homing pigeon, Carolina parakeet, the great penguin and the ivory-billed woodpecker, which was just officially declared extinct ago. two days.

Written by a team of seven scientists and edited by Tony Williams, professor of biology at Simon Fraser University, What is a bird? An exploration of anatomy, physiology, behavior and ecology (Princeton University Press; 2020: Amazon United States / amazon United Kingdom) combines cutting-edge science with lavish photographs and informative science illustrations to enlighten the reader on bird life, from backyard sparrows to the most exotic Birds of Paradise. In this book, we learn why birds do what they do; why their bodies are built in specific ways; why they are so diverse. We also learn interesting details about particular species, such as how emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, breed successfully on glaciers during the windy Antarctic winter when temperatures drop steadily to -40oVS; we discover how the red knots, Calidris canutus, travel 12,000 kilometers non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand in less than 2 weeks; and how ducks, geese and swans swim for hours in icy water without freezing their feet.

As well as being informative and educational, this beautifully formatted book is based on an economy of words as well as a profusion of beautiful graphics – hundreds of stunning photographs, scanning electron microscope images and explanatory figures, maps and diagrams – that literally occupy every page. Within its 368 pages, this comprehensive volume provides valuable insight into our complex relationship with birds, from our lingering fascination with them to the threats they face and the challenges to their conservation, as well as the many technological innovations designed to study the birds.

I was particularly drawn to the parts that explore color, which is one of my lifelong passions: the plumage, the eyes, the beaks and the eggshells. This book answers questions like, how do feathers get their different colors and color patterns? What is the difference between a pigment based color and a structure based color? What makes the feathers of some birds shiny – like those of crows, Corvus corax – or iridescent – like those of hummingbirds? How, for example, the vanga helmet, Euryceros prevostii, create its distinctive blue beak color? How do some birds create brilliant eye colors? And how do so many birds generate beautiful eggshell colors and unique patterns?

If you love birds, you’ll find them all here, from ostriches to hummingbirds, parrots to penguins. This oversized tabletop book presents a comprehensive overview of birds, covering our latest studies of the evolutionary origins of birds to their diversity of anatomical and physiological adaptations, migration and navigation, feeding and foraging, reproduction, social behavior and communication, their relation to humans and even to the most recent research on the ecology, behaviors and habits of birds.

Whether you are a seasoned birder, a new bird student, a newly hatched bird watcher, or an enthusiastic citizen scientist, this must-have book has something for you. The text is readable and uses unambiguous language where possible. This would make a great textbook or additional reference for a classroom, an essential addition to a public or personal library, or a treasured gift for the bird lover in your life. But beyond that, this book can help more people understand birds better and motivate them to actively support avian conservation efforts so that our children and grandchildren can be inspired by their beauty and diversity just like us. .

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