The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
Bird related life science books always seem to have some of the best covers. Just look at the illustration on the cover of The Genius of Birds authored by Jennifer Ackerman. This book also delivers on the content as well. The premise of the book is the examination of new research regarding the newfound intelligence of our avian friends. While delving deeply into the science of this topic the book is still written quite well and isn’t a difficult read.
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Despite not being hard to read, I did feel that sometimes the book dwelt on some of the scientific material just a tad too much. Obviously the book needs to deal with the scientific research to convey it’s message. It is more that the length of some of the dealings with the primary material or the most recent studies could be a little too in depth and a bit long winded. Still, this content was still enjoyable and was more of a product of how the book was structured into a few long chapters. The only other complaint I have would be that there is quite a bit of theory and anecdotal evidence contained in the book that is sometimes passed off as completely being the way things normally are.
However, there were many good aspects to The Genius of Birds. By focusing on just a few chapters in the book, the case studies that were chosen were able to be examined in depth. When it doesn’t get bogged down, this provides for extreme clarity and a complete understanding of the material involved. In particular, the chapter on the vocal capabilities in mockingbirds was tremendous. The scientific research was blended well wild observations of the birds and provided a wealth of understanding and highlights the potential capabilities of avian brains. Also, the last chapter on the human impact on birds was on point as well. This chapter highlighted the decline of “specialist” birds (those who are more niche in their lifestyles and diet for example.) Specialist birds can’t adapt to change quickly, which is becoming more necessary as humans alter ecosystems and the environment at a rapid pace. On the other hand, they are also be out-competed by more generalist birds, most notably the sparrow. Because of its adaptability, sparrows (as well other birds such as crows and pigeons) adjust quite well to urban life and are able to actually expand their habitat.
Overall, this was a great book of ornithology and The Genius of Birds demonstrates quite well how some bird intelligences certainly operate on a level higher than ours. If you are fascinated by birds and their capabilities definitely give this book of chance if you don’t mind a helping of science in your books.
4 out of 5 stars.