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What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World Hardcover – May 8, 2012

99 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This book will enhance our own ability to learn what the nestlings learn."- Birding Business

"Don’t tell lifelong birder Jon Young that robins are boring. He can sit still in his yard, watching and listending for the moment when robins and other birds no longer perceive him as a threat. Then he can begin to hear what the birds say to each other, warning about nearby hawks, cats, or competitors. Young’s book will teach you how you, too, can understand birds and their fascinating behaviors." - BirdWatching

"A sophisticated guide for amateur bird watchers and a door-opener for newbies." - Kirkus

"Though primarily geared toward birders and naturalists rather than lay readers, this passionate instruction manual offers enjoyable anecdotes." - Publishers Weekly 

From the Back Cover

"Jon Young is one of the heroes of the new nature movement, an expansion of traditional environmentalism.
With What the Robin Knows, he opens a door to a universe that overlaps modern life, a world lost to most, but found by some--because of teachers like Jon. This elegant book will deepen the kinship between humans and other species. It decodes our common language."
--Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods

"Here is the ancestral wisdom passed down from Apache elder Stalking Wolf to renowned tracker Tom Brown to Jon Young himself, who in turn passes on to the reader the art of truly listening to the avian soundscape. With all senses more finely tuned, you'll find yourself more aware of your surroundings, slowing down, and reconnecting with a native intelligence and love of the natural world that lies deep within each of us."
--Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds and Birdsong by the Seasons

"What the Robin Knows is a fascinating introduction to nature study beyond putting names on what we see, not just a guide to paying attention outdoors but full of tips on how to do it. It should help us discover the world of nature around us, often glimpsed but too often overlooked. This is less a book to read than one to use, one that will enrich our hours outdoors."
--Thomas R. Dunlap, author of In the Field, Among the Feathered

"Jon Young knows birds, and you will, too, after reading his marvelous book. You'll discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors. Every nature lover should read this book."
--Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children and John Muir: My Life with Nature.

"This book turns us inside out, opening our minds onto the wider mind of the land itself. It's a brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters. By waking our animal senses, Jon Young's work replenishes our humanity."
--David Abram, author of Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547451253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547451251
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jon Young is the author of several works in the field of deep nature connection mentoring. Jon's work includes both audio products as well as books. He worked for fourteen years with a group of experienced leaders in nature mentoring to produce and co-author Coyote's Guide to Connecting to Nature. Jon also co-authored Animal Tracking Basics with Tiffany Morgan Campbell. Jon's work on the Kamana Naturalist Training Program (introductory book is called Exploring Natural Mysteries) has helped foster a world-wide network of naturalists numbering in the thousands.

Seeing Through Native Eyes is an audio series that has captured many a field professionals interest. This is one of those classic resources to help people get to know the nature in their own back yard and focus through the vast diversity of nature on core species to build connections with the natural world. Jon has been a deep nature connection mentor, wildlife tracker, author, workshop leader, consultant and inspiring public speaker for over twenty years. He travels to teach widely throughout North America and Europe, and South Africa. He is a leader in an international network of consultants and trainers working to help communities develop effective nature connection mentoring programs, and culture regeneration for communities and organizations.

Jon co-founded the 8 Shields Institute to help with developing a best-practices process for mentoring and nature connection work. Jon is currently working on a new book called What the Robin Knows about bird language which is scheduled for a March 2012 release. Visit Jon's website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By JD on May 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book leads you from the question of what bird is making that sound, to why is that bird making that sound. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities of exploring the natural world. It contains hard-earned knowledge on the communication of different bird species and the wisdom of how to gain more knowledge in your particular space. This book is extremely well-written. It is mix of science, personal experience, and how-to. There is no book like this out there. I finished it in a day, but will probably re-read and reference it for years to come. Highly recommend.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Jon Harshbarger on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those already familiar with the study of bird language as a doorway to nature interpretation, the writing of Jon Young needs no review. For others, What The Robin Knows will undoubtedly thrust your study and enjoyment of nature into another realm - one of direct participation. Full of examples that motivate and which are enhanced by audio file connections, Jon's new book is appropriate for novice and experienced students alike. Because of the focus on "common" backyard birds and their relationship to the environment, the lessons are portable to a wide range of ecosystems. This book will become the textbook for our "bird language group" in upstate New York.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By T.A.L. Dozer VINE VOICE on May 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition with Audio/Video Verified Purchase
Bird Language the Tactical Advantage

Jon Young has published another superb title "What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World." Throughout time animal alarms have been used by hunters and military personnel to cue them into the environment and/or to "alarm" them to the presence of a predator or enemy. During this time hunters and soldiers that employed this technique may have not known that they were using an elaborate communications system that today is now and art and science. And they may have not even known that they under stood some of this "foreign" language. What Jon Young has done is put this language in an easy to understand how-to format, essentially providing anybody the opportunity to learn this language if they so desire. I personally learned bird language a few years back to use operationally on combat operations. In doing so, I picked specific species of birds and animals to study and learn, that were common across my area of operation. I am by no means an expert at bird language but used it operationally successfully in locations specific to me in areas in Africa, Malaya and Borneo. I also can take the same principles and with time apply them to my new operational areas as needed. This is because even though birds have different songs/calls, bird language is essentially the same the world over and is understood intuitively by many species of animals, which ultimately leads to the concentric rings that are made by disturbances to the baseline of the area you are operating in. The disturbances could be predators in the area or enemy personnel.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Chris Murphy on December 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the Kindle version of this book. I learned how to pay more attention to bird habits and sounds, and I look forward to using this awareness in the field. I will likely refer back to this book to review different points, as long as I can find them.

But I am only giving it three stars because I have never read a book that had so many issues with mechanics. Jon Young uses too many parenthetical asides (like this, but much longer), and I found that extremely distracting. I don't know whether to blame him or his editor. I understand the references to his audio clips, but 90 percent of his asides could have been re-worded to become normal sentences. Another 10 percent could have been eliminated all together. Some asides are so long they could be entire paragraphs. The net effect is that I, as a reader, never quite knew what was the most important part of the paragraph or chapter. Was it the main text, or the many asides, or the side story he just decided to break in and tell?

The asides, combined with very long paragraphs, just prevented the book from flowing for me. I'm an electrical engineer, so it's not like I'm an English major or something. But I have read many fiction and non-fiction books, and to me the sign of a well-edited book is that I don't notice the editing -- and I can focus on the content.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By zim66 on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Great book! It's hard to put it down. It's totally transformational in a very innocent way. First, this book will completely change the way you think about birds, then it will completely change the way you think about your relationship with birds. Even if you're not a "birder" you'll totally love it.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By daven on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was first introduced to Bird Language by Jon Young 7 years ago. Learning to understand bird communication has changed my life in so many positive ways. This book manages to neatly and concisely compile an extraordinary amount of ancient knowledge and wisdom, and serve it in an easily digestible manner. All that, and it's fun to read! I highly recommend this book for anyone, not just birders!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Birder on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Learning to understand bird language is an eye-opening, ear-perking, attention-expanding, and heart-softening journey. I'm grateful to Jon Young for making this journey available!
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