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The Life of Birds Hardcover – September 28, 1998
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Tireless explorer of the natural world and wide-ranging traveler, documentary filmmaker and writer David Attenborough has delighted readers and viewers with such productions as Life on Earth and The Living Planet. In this companion to a 10-part PBS series of the same name, Attenborough examines the ways of bird species from prehistoric times to the present, writing, as he admits, from the viewpoint of an amateur with a particular interest in animal behavior. (Those who can distinguish a bird at sight or by song possess a skill, he writes, "which I greatly admire, but one, alas, that I do not possess.") That amateur passion yields a fine overview of avian biology, as Attenborough turns to such matters as the antiquity of birds, which have dominated the air for some 150 million years, and the adaptation of birds to every ecosystem on the planet--for no obstacle, from huge mountains to wide oceans, has been able to stop their colonizing the whole of the globe, including the artificial deserts of major cities, where pigeons and peregrines rule. Graced with 180 color photographs, Attenborough's book will delight birdwatchers, students of animal behavior, and admirers of good writing alike. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
European swifts sleep and mate in midair. The lammergeier, a vulture, eats large bones, "like a circus sword-swallower." The male sungrebe carries his young in tiny pouches akin to "saddlebags." These are just a few of the delightful avian minutiae to be culled from eminent naturalist Attenborough's latest book, a highly readable and vibrantly photographed survey of bird behavior. With a careful hand, Attenborough (The Private Life of Plants) takes readers around the world, offering vivid descriptions of eating habits, flight, communication, mating, parenthood and environmental adaptability. The shearwater in Japan must launch itself from a treetop in order to get off the ground; Attenborough compares the shape of its wing to "a comma lying on its side... the almost magical device that keeps a bird in the air." Ample color photos illustrate the quirks of evolution that Attenborough playfully describes and highlight the scope of his project. Sandgrouse fill up at a desert watering hole in South Africa and penguins cavort on an iceberg. Indeed, the pictures themselves are a marvel and will have readers wondering more than once: "How did they get that shot?" Just as, perhaps, they may wonder how Attenborough has been able to gather such myriad fascinating discoveries of nature (he acknowledges the contributions of professionals and "masochistic" amateurs). Notably, this is not a long book. But it is an extraordinarily rich one. FYI: An accompanying 10-part PBS series will air in 1999.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Many of the hundreds of photos are in full page splendor, many more are half page spreads, though even the half or split page photos are magnificent in composition, detail, and colour. Among my favourites is a close up of a peacock's tail feather (p.159). Another is a delightful bird's eye view (literally) of young whooping crane chicks and sandhill cranes, flying in formation behind Idaho farmer, Kent Clegg in his micro lite aircraft (p. 308-309). Perhaps my favourite photo is a stunningly beautiful shot of chinstrap penguins clustered on a unbelievably crisp blue iceberg. Breathtaking! (p. 46-47).
Used as a study guide, a handy reference, or for an enjoyable afternoon of perusing truly luscious wildlife photos, you can never go wrong with anything by David Attenborough.
Most recent customer reviews
You'll never look to the sky the same way again!