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Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur (t) Hardcover – Apr 6 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (April 6 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569848
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #416,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 40 reviews
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Birds are people too April 23 2010
By Enjolras - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To quote one of the people in Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur, Sy Montgomery's goal in this book is allow readers to "experiences the divinity of creation revealed in the birds." Montgomery profiles chickens, cassowaries, hummingbirds, hawks, pigeons, parrots, and crows, each with its unique personality quirks and traits. The end result is a delight to read, especially for avid birders or ornithologists.

Birdology isn't a natural history of birds or observations of them in the wild. Ironically, most of the birds Montgomery meets live in captivity of some sort, from her chickens (the "Ladies") to hawks used for falconry (only the cassowaries were truly wild birds). In fact, each chapter seems to focus both on a different species of bird and a person who knows it well, such as a pigeon racer or hummingbird vet.

I had mixed feelings about this. Obviously, birds are at their fullest in the wild, and that's where it would really be great to see them. At times, Birdology feels a bit too much like a book about "people and their birds." On the other hand, focusing on these particular birds allows Montgomery to really get to know them well and provide detailed observations. For example, after years of watching her hens in her backyard, she has noticed that certain personality traits are passed from one generation to the next - what we would call culture. Chicken culture - imagine that!

While Montgomery loves her birds, she resists the temptation to anthropomorphize them. In fact, the best parts of Birdology discuss how birds are different from humans in ways we don't yet fully appreciate. Many birds still have strong instinctual impulses, from the gull chicks who incessantly peck at red objects to the overwhelming urge birds of prey have to hunt (known as "yarak"). She also suggests Alex, the famous African Grey Parrot, had trouble learning some colors because parrot vision recognizes a broader spectrum of colors than does our own.

I do wish Montgomery had chosen more birds to profile, especially when the goal of her book is to give readers some sense of what it means to be a bird. Some of the stories of the more familiar birds have been told in different forms elsewhere. For example, the discussion of Alex the Parrot is also the subject of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process. Others birds, such as pigeons and crows, are fascinating if not exotic. It would have been nice for example to have had a chapter on penguins, a very different type of bird, or the great wandering albatrosses (the subject of Carl Safina's wonderful Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival). There are so many types of birds - over 10,000 species - so it's impossible to cover them all, but I definitely felt there was room in the book for a few more.

Reading Birdology, one gets the feeling that it would be really fun to just be Sy Montgomery. Some of the relationships she's had with birds are truly magical. She doesn't just describe the birds, but also tries to share how it felt emotionally to be in the presence of such wonderful animals. I thought it fascinating for example to hear her describe the hawk as master and the human handling it as the servant. For those of us who haven't been able to spend much time with birds, Birdology conveys that sense of wonder.

Note: If you want a straight up natural history of birds, I might suggest David Attenborough's The Life of Birds or Colin Tudge's The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live. The latter is a bit dry, but comprehensive.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Joan Tomaszewski - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Having read "The Good, Good Pig" by the same author, I was excited to try her book on birds. What a treat! You'll learn the truth about birds you thought you knew, and meet some new ones you probably never even heard of. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Uneven May 31 2011
By Lea - Published on
This is probably more like a 2.5 or 3 star book for me. It was very interesting, but uneven. Divided into seven sections -- each illustrating a characteristic of birds in general by focusing on one species -- some were charming (chickens), fascinating (cassowary), and astounding (hummingbirds). But about halfway through, the book started to slow down. The final four sections (hawks, pigeons, parrots, and crows) each had interesting insights, but were much weaker than the first three. The author's continual references to her vegetarianism got very old after a while, and the final section on crows went overboard with the eco-message. I would probably recommend another book -- Pigeons by Andrew Blechman -- instead of this one. I'm sure there are also other wonderful books on each of the species presented here, and it would be worthwhile to search those out for a more in-depth look.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
birdology May 11 2011
By Judith M. Hunter - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting, especially the Chicken portion. What was said could have been done better, with less repeats. I love birds, so I am glad that I bought it. Learned some new things.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Birdology is a Wonderful Book! A truly unique perspective on birds, and beautifully written Aug. 19 2010
By john98 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of author/naturalist Sy Montgomery's books. In Birdology, Montgomery manages again to do what she does so well: to blend extensive information about animals with enormous empathy for them, with unusual insights into their lives derived from her personal experiences with diverse creatures. Birdology looks at the lives and abilities and evolution of birds from this unique perspective, using several particular species as exemplars. Along the way one also learns about her adventures while exploring the avian world. This is a wonderfully engaging book; I enjoyed it very much, and highly recommend it to all!