The Wonder of Birds
What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future
A fascinating investigation into the miraculous world of birds and the powerful—and surprising—ways they enrich our lives and sustain the planet
Our relationship to birds is different from our relationship to any other wild creatures. They are everywhere and we love to watch them, listen to them, keep them as pets, wear their feathers, even converse with them. Birds, Jim Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature. They compel us to look to the skies, literally and metaphorically; draw us out into nature to seek their beauty; and let us experience vicariously what it is like to be weightless. Birds have helped us in many of our endeavors: learning to fly, providing clothing and food, and helping us better understand the human brain and body. And they even have much to teach us about being human.
A natural storyteller, Robbins illuminates how qualities unique to birds make them invaluable to humankind—from the Australian brush turkey, which helped scientists discover how dinosaurs first flew, to the eagles in Washington D.C. that rehabilitated the troubled teenagers placed in charge of their care.
From the “good luck” ravens in England to the superb lyrebird, whose song is so sophisticated it can mimic koalas, crying babies and chainsaws, Robbins shows our close relationship with birds, the ways in which they are imperiled and how we must fight to save them for the sake of both the planet and humankind.
‘In this deeply felt and well-supported argument for avians’ value to humankind, science writer Robbins (The Man Who Planted Trees) hits the full trifecta for engrossing and satisfying nature writing. He displays a personal involvement with and ‘soul-stirring wonder’ about his subject, a fondness for the sometimes-obsessed researchers who dive deeply into specifics of anatomy and behavior, and a smooth and engaging writing style through which he conveys a huge amount of factual information while keeping his narrative flowing … The world ‘is fantastically rich and alive with meaning,’ Robbins reminds readers, offering correctives to ‘our inability to sense it’ as well as pointers on where to look.’ —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Using enchanting stories and rich historical references, Jim Robbins explores the role of birds on the evolution of human self-awareness.’ —Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
‘A must-read, conveying much necessary information in easily accessible form and awakening one’s consciousness to what might otherwise be taken for granted … The Wonder of Birds reads like the story of a kid let loose in a candy store and given free rein to sample. That is one of its strengths: the convert’s view gives wide appeal to those who might never have known birds well.’ —Bernd Heinrich, Wall Street Journal
‘Engaging, thoughtful … this work is worthy of a place alongside David Attenborough’s documentary The Life of Birds or Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Birds … Of wide-ranging significance, this offering will appeal to naturalists, anthropologists, linguists, and even philosophers as well as to lay readers.’ —Library Journal
‘Fittingly for a work about birds and what they can teach us, The Wonder of Birds soars beyond its putative subject into realms once regarded as mystical.’ —Fiona Capp, The Sydney Morning Herald