The Extraordinary World of Birds

The Extraordinary World of Birds
David Lindo and Claire McElfatrick
Dorling Kindersley

Did you know that ‘birds are dinosaurs in the same way that humans are mammals’? So says David Lindo, aka the Urban Birder, at the start of this engaging look at birds from all over the globe.

The book is divided into five main parts: What is a bird?; Bird families; Bird behaviour; Bird habitats and finally, Birds and me. The author takes readers on a journey through the avian world providing information on fundamentals, through to the enormous variety of incredible adaptations of species in different locations.

The Bird families section presents different groups – the flightless kind, game birds, parrots – I was astonished to find there are as many as 350 species; the only ones I’m familiar with are those Ring-Necked Parakeet tree wreckers in Bushy Park. I was equally fascinated to learn in the behaviour section that songbirds are able to breathe through one lung at a time so they don’t need to pause for breath when singing.

The habitats we visit range from tropical forests that are rich in species, to deserts where, in the most extreme conditions, highly specialised birds such as the difficult to detect, Crowned sandgrouse live. Amazingly the males’ belly feathers have become adapted to soak up and hold water.

In the final part, we encounter some of the birds that are now at risk of extinction on account of human action and the author stresses the importance of nature reserves as well as describing ways in which all of us can help our neighbourhood birds.

By the time readers reach the ‘Birding’ spread, some will need little encouragement to become birders themselves and David gives some helpful tips about so doing.

No matter the section, Claire McElfatrick’s alluring, detailed, often dramatic illustrations, in combination with photographs, really bring each spread to life.
(Backmatter comprises a list of the national birds of over 100 countries, a glossary and index.)

Given the broad scope of its content, I see this as a book for school collections, either for dipping in and out of, or to use as a project resource, rather than for budding ornithologists who would require something with a more specific geographic focus.

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