Beaks, Bones and Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior

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“Reveals the strange and wondrous adaptations birds rely on to get by.” —National Audubon Society

When we see a bird flying from branch to branch happily chirping, it is easy to imagine they lead a simple life of freedom, flight, and feathers. What we don’t see is the arduous, life-threatening challenges they face at every moment. Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs guides the reader through the myriad, and often almost miraculous, things that birds do every day to merely stay alive. Like the goldfinch, which manages extreme weather changes by doubling the density of its plumage in winter. Or urban birds, which navigate traffic through a keen understanding of posted speed limits. In engaging and accessible prose, Roger Lederer shares how and why birds use their sensory abilities to see ultraviolet, find food without seeing it, fly thousands of miles without stopping, change their songs in noisy cities, navigate by smell, and much more.
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About the author

Dr. Roger Lederer is a professor of biological sciences at California State University, Chico. He has published papers and books on ecology, science education, and ornithology. Dr. Lederer has served as a consultant to governments, schools, and organizations like BBC, National Geographic, National Public Radio, National Canadian Television, the Guinness Book of World Records, and many others through his popular website, ornithology.com.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Timber Press
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Published on
Jun 22, 2016
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781604697520
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / Birds
Nature / Birdwatching Guides
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Irene Pepperberg
On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."

What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.

The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, "I love you."

Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin—despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one univer­sity to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

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