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A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey

by Jonathan Meiburg

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2398114,590 (4.04)7
"An enthralling account of a modern voyage of discovery as we meet a rare and mysterious bird of prey--the caracara--that puzzled Darwin, fascinates modern-day falconers, and carries secrets of our planet's deep past in its family history. In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were "tame and inquisitive ... quarrelsome and passionate," and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it. Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated, and absolutely riveting."--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
audio nonfiction (9hrs 52min, read by author), published March 30 2021

entertaining and educational book on the little-known striated caracara or "Johnny Rook" (related to an ancestor of falcons, but behaving like a strange hybrid of eagle/vulture/corvid) of the Faulkland Islands, and other caracara species, all of them extinct or endangered despite their remarkable intelligence and adaptability. Lots about evolution (and extinction events) as well as a few naturalists (relevant to these birds); an interesting epilogue provides evidence that caracaras may be showing up in the US and Canada. ( )
  reader1009 | Feb 26, 2024 |
This is a rambling book about a broad number of topics related to birds: evolution, plate tectonics, ecology, and travel. There were too many long excerpts from other authors that didn't add much to the book, especially from William Henry Hudson. It's an enjoyable book if you feel like taking your time working through it. But it's more of an adventure and travel story than a book about birds. ( )
  Greenfrog342 | Jan 22, 2024 |
This is a compelling, interesting, well researched nonfiction book. The narrative thread is enough but not too much (yes I'm wary now), and the author as narrator is just right. It may just be simple to please me here - I like caracaras because I met one at the end of the earth, and of course I want to hear about Malvinas. ( )
  Kiramke | Sep 9, 2023 |
An excellent natural history of the Caracara and its relatives, jungle travelogue, and paean to William Henry Hudson.

[• There are some interesting notes before the bibliography. They are linked back to the text, but they are not indicated in the text so you can only read them afterward.
• This is specifically recommended for LMN and GCC since they might usually ignore the various oddities that I read.] ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Blending memoir, travelogue, science, and natural history, Jonathan Meiburg introduces readers to the little-known striated caracara, a large, endangered bird of prey found in the Falkland Islands. They are intelligent, curious, mischievous, and social. He traces their history, and the history of birds in general, back to the dinosaurs. He relates their encounters with Charles Darwin and William Henry Hudson. He also takes readers on a journey to various parts of the world to find close relatives of these birds.

Meiburg is obviously passionate about his subject, and it shows in his writing. He beautifully describes his sleuthing in the wilderness of South America and the thrill of making discoveries in the natural world. He describes the impact of climate change on birds, and caracaras in particular. If you are interested in ornithology or natural history, this remarkable book is well worth reading.

( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
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Everyone has been more or less a traveler.

—Charles Barnard
Dedication
To Robin and Anne Woods and Kay McCallum, who set me on this path
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It's the turning of the Earth that spins the winds around Antarctica.
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"An enthralling account of a modern voyage of discovery as we meet a rare and mysterious bird of prey--the caracara--that puzzled Darwin, fascinates modern-day falconers, and carries secrets of our planet's deep past in its family history. In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were "tame and inquisitive ... quarrelsome and passionate," and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it. Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated, and absolutely riveting."--

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In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were "tame and inquisitive . . . quarrelsome and passionate," and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it.

Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated, and absolutely riveting.
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