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Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them Hardcover – March 23, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Drawn from the exquisite collections of three California academies and institutes, the nests in these delicate, detailed images reflect the meticulous care and skill of their creators-50 species of birds, each described in facing-page text that is as free of scientific jargon as it is interesting.
-- American Photo magazine

Small architectural marvels were hidden in storage for decades at the California Academy of Sciences until 2007, when artist Sharon Beals began unearthing them from cardboard boxes and wooden cabinets. She wanted to photograph nature's miniature masterpieces-birds' nests-which had been collected over the course of a century from a variety of species. Her images first appeared in Audubon's March-April 2008 issue and on its cover; they soar again in her elegant new book, Nests (Chronicle Books, $29.95). One by one, the structures appear in stark relief on a black background, exposing their exquisite intricacies-colored thread in an Altamira oriole's creation, seashells in a Caspian tern's-and, often, intact eggs. On facing pages, an illustration of the builder perches above companion text describing the species' nesting habits and construction methods. "Each nest is a scientific treasure trove," write the academy's Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery in the foreword. "Each nest is also an amazing work of art." So is Beals's book.
-- Julie Liebach, editors choice, Audubon magazine

In her new book, Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them, photographer Sharon Beals brings to light an often-secreted piece of the lives of birds. From the collections of the California Academy of Sciences, the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, she has selected some of most ecologically unique, visually stunning, and just plain ingenious nests built by birds both familiar and exotic, from the marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) to Kauai's akekee (Loxops caeuleirostris). The nests are, by turn, miraculously intricate, strikingly simple, sinister, strange, or sweet, but all are a testament to the resourcefulness of creatures who lack complex tools but have nonetheless evolved some of the most sophisticated, diverse architecture of any organisms on the planet.

Beals' beautiful photographs, a sampling of hundreds of nests carefully collected and preserved, are a testament to the power of these miniature masterpieces to inspire our imaginations and awaken our powers of observation.
-- Audubon magazine blog

"An intricate, illuminating window into the natural artistry of avian architecture."
-- Shelf Awareness

About the Author

Award-winning San Francisco photographer Sharon Beals is author of several books including What Dogs Do and What Cats Are. She lives in San Francisco.

Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery are ornithologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul has written more than two dozen books on natural history.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811877582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811877589
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not only a beautiful book, the information in it about birds and their nesting habits is fascinating! This book has become one of my treasures. The only negative is that the book was not packed in such a way that the gorgeous shiny black jacket is protected. As a result, it was marred. It should be shrink wrapped at the publisher to keep it from being damaged because the cover is a work of art in itself.
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Format: Hardcover
I saw a show of Sharon Beals' Nest photos about a year ago and have not forgotten them. I was pleased to find this book. Her photographs are stunning; quietly and respectfully raising each nest to an iconic level. What's really great about this book, is the information presented behind each nest. (Some of these have been in the archives of the Academy of Sciences in SF for generations.) And more importantly, she describes the fragility of the environments that birds live in. We live in a rapidly changing world and we're losing many of nature's precious treasures. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're as fascinated by birds' nests as I am, this book is for you. Each spread consists of 1 full-color picture of a gorgeous and inventive nest, and the eggs that are deposited there. Facing the page is an illustration of the bird that built the nest and a full description of the bird and how it builds its unique home. The variety is astounding, and the materials birds use are often charmingly colorful or make brainy use of commonly found objects, the detritus of both man and nature. I intend to order another of these as a gift to a fellow bird lover.
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Format: Hardcover
I've seen proofs of this book and the author's original prints. This book offers a beautiful set of nests and eggs found in closed museum collections. The color, texture, and sheer ingenuity of these natural, nurturing constructions are amazing, captured in superb still-life images. Who needs art when nature creates such surprising variety? A wonderfully unique gift book, in my opinion (weddings? baby showers)? But keep a quiet, eloquent copy for yourself. You'll never look at birds, or the world around us, in quite the same way again.
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Format: Hardcover
You'll want to buy this book for the beauty alone. It's an art book that focuses on the amazing craftsmanship of birds. The photos emphasize the uniqueness of each nest. Sharply focused, each one jumps out from a black background. The birds use all kinds of surprising materials, from scavenged honeycombs, to colorful bits of trash. They build their nests with all levels of technical expertise; some with casual sloppiness, others woven with intricate detail. As an added bonus there's interesting essays about the birds: how they live, their behavior, and their personalities. You'll never look at birds the same way again and if you're like me you'll be hoping this is the first of a series.
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By SM on May 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has nice pictures of the nests. However, the font is very small which makes it difficult for anyone over 40 to read. Also, there is no nest shown for the bluebird, cardinal, chickadee, painted bunting, indigo, robin; common songbirds birdwatchers love to see. I should have zoned in on the table of contents more closely.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book. Stunning photos and lots of interesting and inspiring info about the birds that built them. I plan on giving this as a wedding present, Christmas present, etc.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have purchased two copies of this book as gifts for nature-loving friends. They both loved it. This title has been out for a while ... this is not a scientific treatise or essay. Instead, the nests, selected from a collection, are treated almost as art, and photographed in a way that brings out their beauty in detail, which heightens one's sense of wonder about how they are made. How are they made? Birds do not teach their young how to build - there must be an element of genetic memory. Anyway, this is a just-the-right-size book for shelf or coffee-table, and a sure hit for anyone who likes birds and fine publications. - Daniel O'Donnell, Portland
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