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Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird…

Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird

by Tim Birkhead

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I am a bit of a bird nerd, so this book definitely piqued my curiosity. The author examines birds' senses, from the "basic five" to magnetic sense, and even emotions. I picked up several fun facts along the way: did you know birds' internal organs undergo seasonal changes?
The centres in the avian brain that control the acquisition and delivery of song in male birds shrink at the end of the breeding season and grow again in the following spring. The brain is expensive to run – in humans it uses about ten times as much energy as any other organ – so, for birds, shutting down those parts not needed at certain times of the year is a sensible energy-saving tactic.

I also enjoyed the chapter on smell. Only recently have scientists confirmed birds do indeed have a sense of smell, and there is still much to study and learn. This book is written much more for the lay person than a scientist, which was fine with me because I'm not a scientist. Despite that, I would have enjoyed going deeper into some of the research, and also wanted to know more about areas of current scientific debate. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Dec 6, 2014 |
All about the senses of birds and how we know they have them. If you can't bear to eat animals, you may not enjoy reading about the things scientists do to them to understand them. Bird Sense is detailed in the extreme. It said it was written for amateurs; well I suppose I'm whatever is before amateur. Mildly interested maybe? I think the information is the sort I would rather read in a glossy magazine with color photos and charts and graphs and little paragraphs to explain. It was interesting. At times it seemed to be more about the scientific method than about actual bird senses. It took over an hour on the audio to even begin to hear about birds, which kinda killed any interest my husband had. As you can probably tell, I endured this book rather than enjoyed it, but it was an interesting subject, and so I listened until the end. ( )
  MrsLee | Dec 4, 2014 |
What is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise? How do desert birds detect rain hundreds of kilometers away? How do birds navigate by using an innate magnetic compass? Tracing the history of how our knowledge about birds has grown, particularly through advances in technology over the past fifty years, Bird Sense tells captivating stories about how birds interact with one another and their environment.

Never before has there been a popular book about how intricately bird behavior is shaped by birds' senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of fieldwork experiences, insights, and a unique understanding of birds, all firmly grounded in science. No one who reads Bird Sense can fail to be dazzled by it. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Jan 8, 2014 |
Nothing on cockatiels. I skimmed the bits on parrots. I have no idea of the book's quality but without cockatiels it did not hold my interest.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802779662, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: How do birds experience being alive? Bird behaviorist and scientific historian Tim Birkhead demystifies the world of experience of birds of all feathers from the inside out, showing how their unique physiology gives them sensory powers beyond our own—including the ability to see UV light, echolocate, and migrate by feeling magnetic forces. With the wit and wonder of David Attenborough, he relates how scientists have discovered what it means to be a bird, over centuries and as new technologies have opened a golden age of sensory knowledge. Undaunted by the breathtaking scope of avian diversity, Birkhead explores their varied realities—from “an emperor penguin diving in the inky blackness of the Antarctic seas” to “a flamingo, sensing invisible rain falling hundreds of kilometers away” to a robin, hearing an earthworm’s “tiny bristles rustling against the sides” of his burrow, and dozens more marvelous avians.

Though his subject will appeal most deeply to bird lovers (and those who’ve wondered what it is like to be an ornithologist), Bird Sense will pique the curiosity of anyone interested in how any creature's experience of the world is shaped by the body it inhabits. –Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:33 -0400)

Looks at the adaptive significance of bird behavior. A lifetime spent in ornithological research and old-fashioned bird-watching has convinced the author that "we have consistently underestimated what goes on in a bird's head." He describes how using the latest available tools, neurobiologists have uncovered new aspects of bird perception--e.g., the fact that female birds that see in the ultraviolet range chose mates on the basis of characteristics we can't directly perceive such as plumage markings. Even more fascinating, Birkhead explains that some birds "tend to use their right eye for close-up activities like feeding and the left eye for more distant activities such as scanning for predators." Another unexpected discovery which he hopes may prove relevant to the treatment of neuro-degenerative brain disease in humans is the plasticity of the brains of birds that live in temperate regions.… (more)

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