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Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur (t) Hardcover – April 6, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Montgomery gives herself over so wholeheartedly to animals, and other humans who share her passion for creatures both rare and ubiquitous, that her nature chronicles are uniquely radiant. Mammals, from tigers to dolphins, bears, and one very special pig, have been her specialty, but birds have always fascinated her, hence this gathering of stirring avian encounters. Montgomery assists a hummingbird rehabilitator in the delicate raising of two tiny orphans, and meets the “most dangerous bird on earth,” the enormous, razor-clawed cassowary in Australia, one bird whose dinosaur ancestry is blazingly apparent. She also writes from unexpected perspectives about falcons, crows, pigeons, chickens, and parrots, each intriguing tale illustrating one of the “seven essential truths about birds,” and all revealing fresh insights about birds, interspecies communications, and environmental concerns. Inspired equally by all that we share with birds—similarities in intelligence, emotion, language, and music—and all that is mysterious (birds “remain fundamentally wild”), Montgomery expresses profound appreciation for the living web of life in a book that both bird lovers and readers new to bird lore will find evocative, enlightening, and uplifting. --Donna Seaman


"Sy Montgomery does for birds what Jane Goodall did for apes. With an infectious sense of adventure, and a sense of awe and mystery, her stories change the way we look at even the most 'common' birds and instill in us a deep sense of gratitude that we are privileged to share this planet with such delightful creatures. Birdology is bound to become a classic." -- Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl

"Spell-binding, absolutely compelling, and so beautifully expressed, Birdology tells stories that everyone should know. Nobody has ever gone so far into the minds of birds as Montgomery has. She completely conveys the life, the obsession, the fascination with birds in an intimate, personal, and engaging style. A magnificent achievement." -- Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie about Love

"Sy Montgomery may be the best interpreter of animals of all time. With impeccable science and profound respect, Birdology describes the miracle of these apparently familiar beings. We take them for granted and that is our mistake. In fact, they are dinosaurs, still living on earth after two hundred and thirty five million years, with minds and abilities that often far surpass our own. One seldom finds a real page-turner as a source of important information, yet Birdology is all of that and more." -- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs and The Social Life of Dogs

"From the first greeting of her charming hens to her celebration of crows in all their smarts and wit, Sy Montgomery has me hooked. One cannot read this book without imagining birds as special people, with emotions and personalities and sometimes an intellect not all that different from our own." -- Dr. Don Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds

"Sy Montgomery has once again taken animal writing to another level of consciousness, compassion and understanding. Birdology is a brilliant, strikingly original, and beautifully written look into the fragile, rich story of birds, whose lives as more varied, endangered, individualistic, and powerful than dogs and cats. I've never read anything like this about birds. These stories will haunt and enrich you, and they remind us how important birds are to our history and ecosystem. And how much they need our attention." -- Jon Katz, author of A Dog Year and Katz on Dogs

"Sy Montgomery has the mind of a scientist and the fierceness of a raptor as she dives beneath the skin and deep into the bones of the avian world in Birdology. Brimming with insights about hidden bird abilities and the secrets of their behavior, the book is at its heart about the emotional bond between birds and people. Whether describing the gentle art of keeping hens or the bloodcurdling perils of falconry, Sy's writing dazzles like hummingbird feathers drenched in blazing sunshine." -- Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather

"One of America's pre-eminent writers on animals, the immensely talented Sy Montgomery leads us on a compelling journey of exploration into the very depths of what makes a bird a bird. With wit, compassion, and a cornucopia of fascinating facts, she delves into the lives and sensibilities of seven types of birds, tracing our relationship to them throughout evolution and human history. From hawks to hummingbirds and crows to cassowaries, Sy highlights bird language, individuality, homing and hunting abilities, and relationship to dinosaurs in a manner that not only reveals her deep love for birds, but also her inner quest to understand all living things. With this book, birders, animal-lovers, or anyone with a with a mild curiosity about birds, will gain a new-found respect and appreciation for the essence of these avian marvels." -- Don and Lillian Stokes, authors of Stokes Field Guide to Birds

"There could be no better guide to the wonder of birds than Sy Montgomery. Her empathy with wild things is as real as it is rare; yet she seems to like the people who study, care for, and work with birds just as much. This is a book about intense connections between people and birds. Montgomery unlocks some of the secret of how and what birds may be thinking. Read it, and you will never look at a parrot, chicken, hawk or pigeon in quite the same way again." -- Julie Zickefoose, NPR commentator; author of Letters from Eden

"Montgomery weaves a delightful, insightful story of the unusual lives of familiar birds to show us that they are personable, fun, annoying, lovable, and awesome and do indeed, strike into our very souls. Her tales are an astonishing, wide-ranging blend of science, art, humor, understanding, and love, and a must read for all animal lovers. Montgomery captures not only the incredible and astonishing variety of bird behavior and intelligence, but the essence of the very soul of birds." -- Joanna Burger, Distinguished Professor of Biology, and author of The Parrot Who Owns Me

"This is my favorite kind of book: charming, witty, and wise, idiosyncratic and inspiring. And Birdology is Sy Montgomery at her very best. Not a catalog, list, or inventory, Birdology is more like a novel, a confession, or an engaging memoir of life lived with soul and wings. I love this book." -- Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man and Elephant Reflections

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569848
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Part Emily Dickinson, part Indiana Jones," as the Boston Globe has called her, Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and swum with piranhas and pink dolphins in the Amazon. To research her books, films and articles, she has worked in a pit swarming with 18,000 snakes in Canada and been hunted by a tiger in India. She has hiked the Altai Mountains of Mongolia's Gobi desert in search of snow leopards and penetrated the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea to radio collar tree kangaroos. No place is too far to go to bring animals' true stories to adults and children around the world.

Th author of the national bestseller, The Good Good Pig, as well as 15 other celebrated nonfiction books, Montgomery writes for print as well as broadcast in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible at what she considers a critical turning point in human history. "We are on the cusp of either destroying this sweet, green Earth or revolutionizing the way we understand the rest of animate creation," she says. "It's an important time to be writing about the connections we share with our fellow creatures. It's a great time to be alive."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To quote one of the people in Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur, Sy Montgomery's goal in this book is allow readers to "experiences the divinity of creation revealed in the birds." Montgomery profiles chickens, cassowaries, hummingbirds, hawks, pigeons, parrots, and crows, each with its unique personality quirks and traits. The end result is a delight to read, especially for avid birders or ornithologists.

Birdology isn't a natural history of birds or observations of them in the wild. Ironically, most of the birds Montgomery meets live in captivity of some sort, from her chickens (the "Ladies") to hawks used for falconry (only the cassowaries were truly wild birds). In fact, each chapter seems to focus both on a different species of bird and a person who knows it well, such as a pigeon racer or hummingbird vet.

I had mixed feelings about this. Obviously, birds are at their fullest in the wild, and that's where it would really be great to see them. At times, Birdology feels a bit too much like a book about "people and their birds." On the other hand, focusing on these particular birds allows Montgomery to really get to know them well and provide detailed observations.
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1 Comment 49 of 50 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Having read "The Good, Good Pig" by the same author, I was excited to try her book on birds. What a treat! You'll learn the truth about birds you thought you knew, and meet some new ones you probably never even heard of. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Naturalist and acclaimed author Montgomery's rhythmic and lyrical subtitle conveys the feel of this entertaining, eye-opening book about birds and the people who love them. If you're one of those who think crows are just raucous marauders and pigeons no more than rats with wings, this book may transform your thinking.

"Not much gets past a pigeon. They notice details that humans miss: one study found that pigeons could learn to recognize the difference between the painting style of Manet and that of Monet faster than many college students. At one time, the U.S. Coast Guard trained pigeons in helicopters to spot orange life vests at sea; they outperformed human spotters three to one." One wonders why they are no longer used but Montgomery doesn't go into this.

She has a lot of territory to cover. Beginning with her own 20-year flock of chickens, Montgomery celebrates birds - their individuality, biology, and abilities. She opens each chapter with specifics - the people involved and the birds they are involved with - then ranges into the science surrounding the species, exploring their specialized anatomy and the many behavior studies.

Enraptured by her free-ranging chickens, affectionate hens who exhibit individual personalities, she intertwines an intriguing account of their lives and habits with results of studies on chicken communication and rooster behavior. But things change when a new flock of chickens takes up residence beside her own. "Everything the Rangers do is writ large. My hens are gentle, subtle; they are Ladies. The Rangers are drama queens." Observation drives her to the stunning conclusion that chicken culture is passed down through generations in one flock "of unrelated chickens of different breeds.
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2 Comments 8 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By Lea on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is probably more like a 2.5 or 3 star book for me. It was very interesting, but uneven. Divided into seven sections -- each illustrating a characteristic of birds in general by focusing on one species -- some were charming (chickens), fascinating (cassowary), and astounding (hummingbirds). But about halfway through, the book started to slow down. The final four sections (hawks, pigeons, parrots, and crows) each had interesting insights, but were much weaker than the first three. The author's continual references to her vegetarianism got very old after a while, and the final section on crows went overboard with the eco-message. I would probably recommend another book -- Pigeons by Andrew Blechman -- instead of this one. I'm sure there are also other wonderful books on each of the species presented here, and it would be worthwhile to search those out for a more in-depth look.
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Format: Paperback
I loved reading this book, which is a well balanced blend of science and up close personal adventures with birds. Years of experience with birds went into the writing. Besides raising her own brood of personality filled chickens, Sy pursued the giant, dinosaur-like cassowary in an Australian jungle, helped rescue a baby hummingbird the size and weight of an air bubble, partnered with a hawk trained to hunt with humans, kept vigil as homing pigeons raced back to their loft, danced with Snowball the YouTube sensation cockatiel, witnessed thousands of crows roost together in one very overwhelmed small town, and talked with loquacious parrots and the language researcher who trained them and worked with the renowned parrot Alex. Birdology gave me a fascinating glimpse into what we can know about the hearts and minds of a species with surprising amounts of individuality, social awareness, and intelligence.
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