Book Review: The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman

Posted December 25, 2020 by lomeraniel in Audiobooks, Non-Fiction, Review / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Bird Way by Jennifer AckermanThe Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think by Jennifer Ackerman
Narrator: Jennifer Ackerman
Published by Penguin Audio on 05-05-20
Genres: Non-Fiction
Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
Format: Audiobook
Source: Libby
Buy on Amazon/Audible
Overal Rating: five-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds, a radical investigation into the bird way of being, and the recent scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds—how they live and how they think.
"There is the mammal way and there is the bird way." This is one scientist's pithy distinction between mammal brains and bird brains: two ways to make a highly intelligent mind. But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries. What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive. They're also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own—deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also, ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play.
Some of these extraordinary behaviors are biological conundrums that seem to push the edges of—well—birdness: A mother bird that kills her own infant sons, and another that selflessly tends to the young of other birds as if they were her own. Young birds that devote themselves to feeding their siblings and others so competitive they'll stab their nestmates to death. Birds that give gifts and birds that steal, birds that dance or drum, that paint their creations or paint themselves, birds that build walls of sound to keep out intruders and birds that summon playmates with a special call—and may hold the secret to our own penchant for playfulness and the evolution of laughter.
Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan, to the rolling hills of lower Austria and the islands of Alaska's Kachemak Bay, Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect, in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behavior, birds vary. It's what we love about them. As E.O Wilson once said, when you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.

I heard about this book when I checked the 2020 Texas Book Festival schedule some months ago, and I saw that Jennifer Ackerman was going to present her book during one of the talks. I have been interested in birds my whole life, not only because they are amazing creatures, but also because I share my home with several of them.

I remember reading an interview with Jennifer Ackerman a couple of years ago, where she declared that birds remember, think, feel, give presents, and also love. I never had doubts about this, but having someone who has studied so much about birds, affirming it, is greatly satisfying.

One of the first things mentioned in the book is that seeing a bird is not seeing them all, and the book illustrates this again and again. Although there are some similarities among birds, like their high neuron density, excellent vision, or the fact that they are the descendants of dinosaurs, the bird realm is very heterogeneous, and each species has its own particularities.

Several species appear in the book, but most studies are about corvids, keas, and the lyrebird, mostly due to location or a special characteristic. There are many aspects of birdlife in the book: talk, laugh, socializing, use of tools, symbiosis with other animals, play, courtship, and parenting. For each topic, there are one or two species that were mostly studied due to particular characteristics. The book goes deeply into each one of the topics mentioned but, as the bird realm is so extensive and wide-ranging, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it left me wanting to know more, not about the mentioned species but also about others as well, as I am especially interested in parrots, and they are in itself a complex and diverse group.

I was quite impressed with the fact that Jennifer Ackerman narrates the book herself, and she did an incredible good job at it. She used a compelling tone to illustrate the various facts in the book, with clear speech and a pleasant tone. You could hear her enthusiasm in her voice. It was a total delight!

I am looking forward to reading more books by Ackerman, and I wish she would consider writing a book solely about Psittacidae.

Story (Plot)
Overall: five-stars