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

by Tim Birkhead

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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 |
ana
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
ana
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
I have been fascinated by birds all my life so I latched on to this book right away. Also, I took a year of animal behavior in college plus lab for a semester and also took a course in physiological psychology. Why am I telling you that? Because this book does use a lot of technical terms and refers to history of research behind each topic, I think that without an interest in birds, a reader might get discouraged or even bored but without a background in the technical terms, a reader may be lost or spend some time with the glossary in the back of the book.

This book is divided into different topics: Seeing, Hearing, Touch, Taste, Smell, Magnetic Sense and Emotions. Besides the glossary in the back, there is a section on notes with references, a bibliography, and index and a postscript.

My favorite chapter in this book is the one on Seeing. I had read recently in an article on the Internet that birds see more colors than we do. Humans have three different kinds of photoreceptors or commonly called cones. Ours are red, green and blue so all the colors that we perceive from those kinds of cones. But birds have the same cones but ultraviolent in addition. Because I don't know enough about UV light this fact makes me feel like I am fishing in the dark. I have cockatiels as pets. When I come home from my UVB treatment (as prescribed by a dermatologist) can they actually see a difference in me? Reading the information from the research prompted many interesting questions.

Here are just some of the questions that this book answers:

Can birds fly and sleep at the same time?

How can raptors see in very dim light?

What part of bird ears can grow back?

What career would John James Audubon have followed if he had obeyed his father's wishes?

What could prompt a bird to murder another bird?

I recommend this book to all bird lovers and people who really want to know how birds perceive the world.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine Program and that in no way influenced my review. ( )
1 vote Carolee888 | Mar 10, 2012 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:42 -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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