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After an abortive encounter with birds during Spring break, a teenaged Edworthy gave up his dream of nature photography for writing; with a number books under his belt (The Curious Gardener's Almanac, The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook), he returns to his early passion for "the magical enigma" of birds with a guidebook aimed at general readers, rather than committed bird-watchers. Full of fascinating information and trivia presented in a well-illustrated, magazine-like layout, Edworthy's volume discusses topics like the probability that birds and reptiles share a common, 145-million-year-old ancestor, the crow-sized "Archaeopterix," and the myth that birds are largely monogamous (although swans, albatrosses and most birds of prey "do settle down for life"). Surprisingly, he overlooks some recent research-like a 2007 study contradicting his assertion that, in most instances, only male birds sing-but is largely reliable in his discussion of bird behavior, providing colorful anecdotes for characteristics like problem solving in crows: "in Japanese cities crows drop walnuts in front of cars ... and wait for an obliging wheel to break the shell open."
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