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The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life [Hardcover]

Bridget Stutchbury

Price: CDN$ 28.11 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

May 25 2010
Biologist Bridget Stutchbury takes readers along on her escapades as a bird detective, stalking subjects through the woods for hours, taking blood samples from nestlings for DNA analysis, and mounting miniature tracking devices on tiny backs. She captures several young white-and-brown male purple martins and paints them the darker color of mature males to see if the painted youngsters are more successful than their unaltered peers in wresting away nest sites from older males. They are!

The Private Lives of Birds is a treasure trove of fascinating insights into bird behavior. But understanding the social lives of birds does much more than slake our curiosity. Aware that many birds will not occupy an area unless other birds are already there, biologists used mirrors and two-dimensional cutouts to lure Atlantic puffins to establish colonies off the coast of Maine, getting curious puffins to visit the site and linger long enough to encounter a live bird. As Stutchbury says, "Trying to save birds without understanding what makes them tick is a shot in the dark … birds are highly social, and their social needs are at least as important as their physical needs."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Co (May 25 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717467
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #489,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“This is an excellent overview of wild bird behavior, social relationships, courtship, and breeding, which are surprisingly structured and complex. Well researched, this is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries, natural history and psychology collections, and readers with more than a superficial attraction to nature.”Library Journal
“Be warned: reading The Private Lives of Birds is likely to make you chuck in your present job to become a bird biologist. Who would have known that our beloved wild birds would turn out to be liars, cheats, and bullies? In elegant and lucid prose, Stutchbury explains why birds act the way they do.”—Glen Chilton, author of The Curse of the Labrador Duck

“The bird detective delivers in many ways, packaging facts and insights, science and adventure with a folksy delivery that never undermines the seriousness of her research.” The Olympian (Olympia, WA)

“Stutchbury’s new, informal work on bird behavior just begs to be read under a backyard tree. The book could serve as beach reading too; marine birds such as the albatross and rhinoceros auklet put in appearances.”—Susan Milius, Science News

The Private Lives of Birds is a treasure trove of fascinating insights into bird behavior…. An interesting introduction into bird biology.”GrrlScientist, The Birdbooker Report

“Stutchbury offers a fine step-up for readers looking to move beyond folksy bird-watching memoirs and into the lives of the birds themselves.”—Booklist

“With her trademark clarity and humor, Bridget Stutchbury—‘bird detective’ extraordinaire—reveals avian lives of uncommon drama, rife with adultery, divorce, sibling rivalry, lying, social climbing and life-or-death marathons—a peek into a world at once familiar and wonderfully different from our own.”—Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding

“Bridget Stutchbury dodges killer bees, wakes before dawn to follow birds through the forest, and peers through a ‘riparia-scope’ at hundreds of eggs. Don't miss her stories of personal adventure and her far-reaching scientific synthesis explaining the amazing behaviors of birds and what they mean for the birds' survival and future.”—Miyoko Chu, author of Songbird Journeys

 “A treasure-house of insights into the lives of birds and the glorious evolutionary energy that powers their displays and courtship—and their not infrequent infidelities.”—Graeme Gibson, author of The Bedside Book of Birds

“It’s not easy to produce a specialized book that is simultaneously erudite and engrossing, but Stutchbury pulls it off for the most part . . . Stutchbury’s book is packed with information, both salacious and sage.”—Quill & Quire (starred review) (review of Canadian edition, The Bird Detective)

About the Author

Bridget Stutchbury completed her Ph.D. at Yale, was a fellow and research associate at the Smithsonian Institute, and is now professor of biology at York University. She is affiliated with more than a dozen organizations that seek to preserve bird habitats. Her book, The Silence of the Songbirds, was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Life of a Bird Researcher Oct. 19 2013
By D. Wayne Dworsky - Published on Amazon.com
Quote: "Birds are highly social, and their social needs are at least as important as their physical needs."

Birds have been highly regarded by man. From earliest times, folks have gazed up at the sky to watch these majestic creatures in flight, admiring their ability to float aloft effortlessly. This observation must be what drives people like Bridget Stutchbury to study birds. She stalks them, living among them, studying them in surprisingly fine detail. She observes their mating habits, parenting skills, social behavior, tool usage and nest building techniques.

She also listens to birds with a sympathetic ear for their well being, taking note that humans continue to challenge them with increasing pressure every year. The author demonstrates a strong need to share her love of birds by having composed her wonderful book, The Secret Lives of Birds.

To document her book accurately, Stutchbury was persistent. Considering birds' range and variations in size, she relied upon extensive knowledge and enduring patience. The book focuses on eight specific attributes: mating, selecting mates, parenting, nest-building, territory defense, bird cities, migration, adaptation strategy. In her epilogue she explains that birds have adapted to human encroachment by changing their habits.

Loaded with crystal clear HD photography and exquisitely crafted in a rich, articulate style, she delivers a book readers easily learn from.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent stories about bird behaviour research, especially mating March 22 2013
By Chris Leuchtenburg - Published on Amazon.com
Like Birkhead's Bird Sense, this book closely follows the author's own research. But Stutchbury employs this approach so much more successfully. Her book is filled with fascinating facts, stories and research projects that shine a light on so many aspects of bird life, especially mating. The stories are driven by the author's contagious excitement about some of the newest techniques, such as genetic testing of chicks to expose cuckoldry, radio tracking of ardent male suitors and tiny (1.5 gram) daylight sensors to determine migration tracks. This is the book for you if your heartbeat speeds up when you read: "The good news arrived on 30 April 2008 via an email from Emily. `Hi Everyone. Just wanted you to know I was down at Indianhead this morning doing some band reading and looking for geolocators. I saw a geolocator on an ASY-F...she is Yellow 2551.' Emily was looking at the first migratory songbird, anywhere in the world, for whom we would know its arrival time on the wintering grounds, where it had spent the winter, and how quickly it had come home." p. 193
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended! Aug. 13 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life comes from a 'bird detective' biologist whose field studies of birds offers many insights into bird behaviors. From understanding bird social life to becoming more aware of their needs, The Private Lives of Birds offers lay readers an opportunity to understand the science behind birding. Highly recommended!
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's...ok Oct. 29 2010
By Ellzeena - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with amolba's statement about the lengths a grad student will go in the pursuit of "knowledge", especially when avian enthusiasts around the world have been breeding exotic species (often in free flighted colonies) and can easily "report" (without interfering with the processes) some of the behavior and "facts" represented in this book. I bred Lovebirds for many years in a free flighted aviary and I know for a FACT that the hen in a pair of mates (very bonded opposite sex pairs) can, and do, mate with another male in the aviary and produce one (or more) young from that mating. I can think of one Dutch Blue hen who produced six chicks, one of which was a Pied who identically resembled (when finally in full feather) his father, who was extremely bonded to his own hen (also on the nest at the time). Obviously this sort of behavior is common in birds with some exceptions.

I did come away from this book with some very interesting information, some of which I suspected or deduced from my own experience with both my Lovebirds and birds in the wild. As an expert in animal behavior of another species, I understand how very difficult it is to put into words the deep concepts behind certain animal behaviors. However, I found this text to be heavily anthropocentric in ways that I think could have been avoided. Over all, I hoped to gain a great deal more knowledge from this book than I actually did.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars so-so Aug. 15 2010
By amolba - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are some very interesting studies summarized in the book, though they are presented in a somewhat dry, uninteresting manner. As a naturalist, I continue to be amazed at the lengths grad students think it is ok to go with wild animals in the name of research.

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