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The Life of Birds

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Overview

Based on the spectacular ten-part program on PBS, The Life of Birds is David Attenborough at his characteristic best: presenting the drama, beauty, and eccentricities of the natural world with unusual flair and intelligence. The renowned writer and filmmaker treks through rain forests and deserts, through city streets and isolated wilderness, to bring us an illuminating panorama of every aspect of birds' lives--from their songs to their search for food, from their eggs and nests to their mastery of the air. ...

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Overview

Based on the spectacular ten-part program on PBS, The Life of Birds is David Attenborough at his characteristic best: presenting the drama, beauty, and eccentricities of the natural world with unusual flair and intelligence. The renowned writer and filmmaker treks through rain forests and deserts, through city streets and isolated wilderness, to bring us an illuminating panorama of every aspect of birds' lives--from their songs to their search for food, from their eggs and nests to their mastery of the air. Beautifully illustrated with more than a hundred color photographs, the book will delight and inform both bird lovers and any general reader with an interest in nature.

Attenborough begins at the beginning: reviewing ideas about how and when creatures first took to the air--and why ostriches, kiwis, and other flightless birds later returned to the ground. He introduces us to the marvels of flight. We encounter the albatross, which can soar for hours without flapping its wings; hummingbirds that beat their wings two hundred times a minute; and the swift, which eats, sleeps, and mates in mid-air. We read about birds' extraordinary methods of hunting and gathering--about crows that use twigs and leaves to hook and harpoon insects, and eagles that can stamp venomous snakes to death. Attenborough explains why and how birds sing and why many have such dazzling plumage. He reviews courtship and mating strategies, including the extravagant dances of cranes and the bizarre and ornate pavilions that male bowerbirds build to attract females. We learn how birds defend their young against predators. Attenborough explains how birds have colonized the globe more effectively than any other vertebrates, adapting to Antarctic winters and African summers, to vast oceans and the densest, most polluted cities. He also outlines the threat that humans pose to many species, showing how we have already driven many to extinction.

The book presents birds in all their complexity and glory, revealing in clear and elegant prose Attenborough's infectious sense of wonder about the rich variety of life on Earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Birds are a fascinating species, soaring high above our heads and adapting easily to almost any weather or other incidents thrown at them. Now, in The Life of Birds, David Attenborough presents the beauty of these creatures in full color.

Attenborough brings his wealth of knowledge about the natural world to The Life of Birds, the book examines every aspect of a bird's life, from flight — and why birds such as the ostrich and the kiwi returned to the ground — to the wondrous plumage that birds such as the peacock and the toucan use to announce their presence to the world. His insights provide a new way of looking at these creatures, placing them in a habitat and context instead of regarding them as objects to admire as they soar over our heads.

The bird is a wonderfully adaptable creature, surviving every climate from the rainforests of Brazil to the tundras of the Arctic. The Life of Birds, delves into this adaptability while also looking at the ways that humans — those ground-locked admirers of the feathered species — threaten these creatures' existence.

The Life of Birds, is a thrilling look at a species whose beauty has long been taken for granted by humans.
— barnesandnoble.com

The Quarterly Review of Biology
Each chapter is an entertaining and chatty essay that rambles amiably through a series of observations from the ornithological literature. Nearly every page is graced with stunning photographs of wild birds in the most beautiful plumages or performing unusual postures or behaviors. The book is an easy read that covers an enormous amount of information on the biology of birds.
From the Publisher

"A highly readable and vibrantly photographed survey of bird behavior. . . . Ample color photos illustrate the quirks of evolution that Attenborough playfully describes and highlight the scope of his project. . . . This is not a long book. But it is an extraordinarily rich one."--Publishers Weekly

"Each chapter is an entertaining and chatty essay that rambles amiably through a series of observations from the ornithological literature. Nearly every page is graced with stunning photographs of wild birds in the most beautiful plumages or performing unusual postures or behaviors. The book is an easy read that covers an enormous amount of information on the biology of birds."--The Quarterly Review of Biology

Kimberly G. Smith
The pictures are great and there is a tendency to discuss the bizarre rather than the mainstream. I have no doubt that this book will also be popular in the United States. I would suggest giving this book to anyone you know that might be thinking of becoming involved with birds, particularly some young impressionable teenager. -- Condor
Publisher's Weekly
This is not a long book. But it is an extraordinarily rich one.
Kirkus Reviews
The indefatigable Attenborough (The First Eden: The Mediterranean World and Man, 1987, etc.), the driving force behind many nature documentaries, has written a book to accompany his forthcoming 10-part PBS series on the varied, complex, and fascinating world of birds, which will air in the spring of 1999. Attenborough is a lively writer, and his facile style is perfectly suited to presenting, with a minimum of complexity, a maximum of information. Ranging around the globe for his examples, Attenborough succinctly describes bird evolution, the mechanics of flight, patterns of adaptation to varied environments, courtship and nest-building behavior, and the rearing of young, among other topics. Whatever element of bird life he is describing, Attenborough's emphasis throughout is on behavior, and it's clear that he admires the abilities of birds to adapt to even the harshest climates. Experienced amateur ornithologists are unlikely to find anything new here, but the volume does offer a useful (and superbly illustrated) introduction to bird life for those with little background in the field. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691016337
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 809,649
  • Product dimensions: 7.19 (w) x 10.26 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Table of Contents


FOREWORD 7
1 TO FLY OR NOT TO FLY 11
2 THE MASTERY OF FLIGHT 39
3 THE INSATIABLE APPETITE 71
4 MEAT-EATERS 98
5 FISHING FOR A LIVING 118
6 SIGNALS AND SONGS 154
7 FINDING PARTNERS 182
8 THE DEMANDS OF THE EGG 218
9 THE PROBLEMS OF PARENTHOOD 251
10 THE LIMITS OF ENDURANCE 277
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 312
INDEX 316
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