Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead


13 Critic Reviews

...finely reconciled opposites of clear-eyed love and scientific rapture.


What is it like to be a swift, flying at over one hundred kilometres an hour? Or a kiwi, plodding flightlessly among the humid undergrowth in the pitch dark of a New Zealand night? And what is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise?

Bird Sense addresses questions like these and many more, by describing the senses of birds that enable them to interpret their environment and to interact with each other. Our affinity for birds is often said to be the result of shared senses--vision and hearing--but how exactly do their senses compare with our own? And what about a bird's sense of taste, or smell, or touch, or the ability to detect the earth's magnetic field? Or the extraordinary ability of desert birds to detect rain hundreds of kilometres away--how do they do it?

Bird Sense is based on a conviction that we have consistently underestimated what goes on in a bird's head. Our understanding of bird behaviour is simultaneously informed and constrained by the way we watch and study them. By drawing attention to the way these frameworks both facilitate and inhibit discovery, Birkhead identifies ways we can escape from them to explore new horizons in bird behaviour.
There has never been a popular book about the senses of birds. No one has previously looked at how birds interpret the world or the way the behaviour of birds is shaped by all their senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of observation and a unique understanding of birds and their behaviour that is firmly grounded in science.

About Tim Birkhead

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Tim Birkhead teaches animal behavior and the history of science at the University of Sheffield. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the author of several books, including The Wisdom of Birds; The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology, which won the McColvin Medal; and The Red Canary, which won the Consul Cremer Prize. He lives in Sheffield, England.
Published April 24, 2012 by Walker Books. 289 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Outdoors, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Bird Sense
All: 13 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 0


Mar 01 2012

An entertaining book guaranteed to bring pleasure to bird-watchers that will also fascinate students contemplating a career in ecology.

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Reviewed by Tim Dee on Apr 06 2012

...finely reconciled opposites of clear-eyed love and scientific rapture.

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Reviewed by David Wheatley on Mar 16 2012

This fascinating book has much to teach us, not just about what it means to be a bird, but about the rewards and responsibilities of our coexistence with these wonderful creatures.

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Reviewed by Tim Radford on Nov 21 2013

The chapter on avian navigated with caution and Birkhead delicately adds "I am not going to speculate about the emotions that might be involved in avian infidelity". This book kicked off as three-to-one favourite to win the Royal Society Winton Prize. I can see why.

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Publishers Weekly

Mar 12 2012

The well-organized book takes pains to explain any avian jargon, making for an uncomplicated, entertaining read perfect for birdwatchers and animal enthusiasts.

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Wall Street Journal

Reviewed by Jonathan Rosen on Jun 29 2012

...deeply stirring and inspires awe at our own species and its capacity for such intense curiosity.

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Blog Critics

Reviewed by Natalie Bennett on May 27 2012

Even a humble city pigeon, or a passing flock of sparrows, won't look quite the same as before, should you read Bird Sense.

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The Telegraph

Reviewed by Peter Parker on Feb 08 2012 absolutely absorbing book, on almost every page there is an astonishing observation or revelation.

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The New Republic

Reviewed by John Spurling on Jul 10 2012

This is a book to make one whistle, both at the sensational senses of birds and at the patient curiosity and cunning of those who study them.

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The Age

Reviewed by John Huxley on Feb 25 2012

...generally he tells entertaining stories, makes sense of technicalities. His mind, his eye and his heart are in the right place: as he admits, he easily ''falls in love with birds''.

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Times Higher Education

Reviewed by Elizabeth Adkins-Regan on Apr 05 2012

The result is an engaging mixture of personal anecdotes from all over the world, lesser-known histories of science and expert renditions of current knowledge.

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New Scientist

Reviewed by Jamie Condliffe on Feb 20 2012

...demonstrates the broad-ranging content of Bird Sense, a book that is thoughtful, thoroughly researched and engagingly written throughout.

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The Monthly

Reviewed by Robyn Davidson on May 01 2012

...a wonderful if slightly Aspergic book filled with extraordinary facts and charming passion.

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Tracy Farkas

Tracy Farkas 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list