From Publishers Weekly
The field of avian bio-acoustics has dragged birdsong from the domain of poets into the realm of the hard sciences. English professor Stap (A Parrot Without a Name
) explores it through this engaging profile of ornithologist Don Kroodsma and his pioneering field studies of birdsong in the wild. Birdsongs are learned rather than instinctual (the brown thrasher has a repertoire of 2,ooo songs), and Stap delves into the complex processes by which birds acquire them, the individual idiosyncrasies and regional dialects that color them, and the mating behaviors and territorial antagonisms they regulate. As he tramps along with ornithologists through the predawn woods in search of early-rising songbirds, Stap crafts an absorbing account of the scientific process itself—of the meticulous, often obsessive lengths to which Kroodsma and his colleagues go to record and analyze these evanescent melodies, and of the bitter methodological controversies between field ornithologists and scientists who prefer controlled but perhaps misleadingly artificial experiments in the laboratory. A lucidly written combination of scientific lore and vivid reportage, the book is a thoughtful treatment of one of nature's most beguiling phenomena.
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Why do birds sing? And why do some birds sing complex songs and others repeat the same simple tune? Stap, a frequent contributor to Audubon
and other magazines, explores the natural history and science of birdsong as he follows both the birds and the ornithologists studying them. The songbirds are among the few animals on the planet (the others being humans and some cetaceans) that must learn their vocalizations from their parents. The seemingly endless types of birdsong created during this learning process, and through the isolation of birds from their compatriots, produces endless scientific questions to be answered. Stap observes two of the world's experts on birdsong as they attempt to answer these questions, and what follows is a fascinating look at science in action. Along the way we learn that the best research raises as many questions as it answers, and we begin to understand the profound curiosity that drives the best scientists. This excellent book will challenge readers to listen to birds as well as watch them. Nancy BentCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved