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The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration Hardcover – April 8, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Naturalist Heinrich (Life Everlasting, 2012) returns with another richly crafted title that immerses readers in the wild world. In this outing he focuses on the mysteries of migration and the homing instinct while also delving into the personal story of his own Maine home. From such expected migrators as birds and butterflies to moths, eels, and grasshoppers, Heinrich’s elegant passages (with line drawings) wander in and out of discussions on long travels, dwelling construction (bees are primary players), and “home crashers,” which include bed bugs and other pests. His trademark wit and self-deprecating humor are evident throughout, especially in a delightful chapter highlighting the intricate web building and preservation of a spider he rightfully dubs Charlotte. The many small illustrations of easily overlooked creatures combine to bring a story of life into focus. Whether in Alaska for the annual return of a pair of sandhill cranes or researching the lives of his land’s previous owners, Heinrich doesn’t lose sight of his goal—to understand why creatures great and small all long for a return to home. --Colleen Mondor

Book Description

HMH hardcover, 2014, previous ISBN: 978-0-547-19848-4
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547198485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547198484
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on March 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What is "home"? How and why are animals drawn toward it? That's the topic of Bernd Heinrich's new book. Thanks to the title and to the dust jacket illustration, we initially think here of the act of migration, and especially of the most noticeable ones: of large groups of birds flying overhead in the spring and the fall. But Heinrich gives us additional examples of homing in species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals; from his own observations and from the research of others. The animals may be led by instinct, sight, or a combination of reading the landscape and responding to magnetic earth forces. The choice depends on species, location, and opportunity. It's interesting stuff. The topic of homing is a much richer one than it may appear at first thought.

Then: What comes after the creature finds its best territory? Home building and home maintenance, of course. And we learn more fascinating details about the kind of structures that animals create, if they feel the need to build them. Now Heinrich turns his sights toward humans. (And we knew that he would get to this eventually, after we read the Preface.) We follow him to Maine, to his own most familiar places. Here he gives us further fodder for consideration, especially in debating why humans developed into home-builders at all. I wish he had reached this connection a bit sooner, though. And he doesn't quite resolve the personal conflict that he references in the Preface. Still, I do appreciate his final, environmentally savvy, conclusion.

Animal lovers should be forewarned or reminded that Bernd Heinrich IS a scientist. He "collects" animals for study, hunts for deer, and has no qualms about sacrificing bumble bees to orb spider webs.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Has Bernd Heinrich ever written a bad book? Not to my knowledge. From his first, groundbreaking, study of temperature control in bumblebees, Bumblebee Economics his studies of raven behavior (Ravens in Winter, 1991; Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, 2007) on why solitary birds share their food with other solitary birds, to his lovely autobiography cum biography of his father, The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey through a Century of Biology (2007), everything he writes has been enriched by his blend of scientific rigor and poetic description. (The books I haven’t read show how wide-ranging his biological interests run: he’s written on how animals prepare to die, running and evolution, the trees in his woods, the wildlife year round in his Maine woods, bird nesting and “the invention of monogamy”, geese, an owl, and insect physiology and behavior in general.

Now he tackles homing: animal migration, nesting and nest-building, and in the process, talks about his own ‘home’, which is more the forest surrounding his cabin in Maine than the house itself. He is generous in recognizing and commenting on other scientists. The results of their work, in lab and in the wild, permit him to generalize beyond his own experience, which he relates lovingly. It is the combination of the analytical with the loving and accepting observer of animal ways that makes Heinrich such a good guide.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Animal migration is a well-known phenomenon and most of us do not give much thought to it. If we do think about it in passing, we would imagine that weather and food would be the driving reasons for the animals and birds to migrate and that they must be genetically programmed to manage the migration process. But in this fascinating book ‘The Homing Instinct’, Bernd Heinrich creates scientific poetry by delving deep into the mechanisms and mysteries of animal migration: how geese imprint true landscape memory; hoe scent trails are used by many creatures from fish to amphibians, to pinpoint heir home if they are displaced from it; and how the tiniest of songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances.

It will surprise the reader on realizing that even butterflies can migrate over hundreds of miles and some ocean birds can fly thousands of miles without even stopping once! And over the vast ocean landscape how do they even know where they are? Many, many more similar mysteries are covered in this wonderful book. Another real surprise is the deep physiological emotions showed by many creatures when they get back to their home, that Bernd highlights with a beautiful example of the sandhill cranes.

With this as a back ground Bernd then builds up a larger story of what a home means to animals as well as humans and what a home and its creation means for human happiness and survival. The variety of creatures that Bernd covers is mind boggling – from cranes, albatrosses, loons, geese, pigeons to locusts, bees, dragon fly, butterflies, and then to ants, beetles and leeches and goes on to Turtles, Salmon, Eels and many more!
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