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The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human Hardcover – March 20, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 483 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Birds are fascinating, and the more we humans study them, the more similarities we find between ourselves and our feathered neighbors. Strycker, editor of Birding magazine and author (Among Penguins, 2011), here combines the latest in ornithological science with snippets of history and his own vast experience in the field to hatch a thoroughly entertaining examination of bird behavior. Some avian behaviors don’t apply to humans—the almost magical homing abilities of pigeons, the incredible sense of smell of turkey vultures (as tested by the teenage author with the cooperation of a very dead deer and his extremely tolerant parents)—but many seemingly incredible bird actions have parallels in our own lives. Fairy wrens are cooperative breeders and show us one reason humans so often collaborate. The famous pecking order seen in domestic chickens certainly is evident in office politics, and magpies have often been seen holding impromptu funerals for their deceased flock mates. A sulphur-crested cockatoo named Snowball dances in synchrony to his favorite Backstreet Boys CD, leading to a discussion of the role of music for both birds and humans. Birds are equally alien and familiar, and in Strycker’s absorbing survey, we find out how much fun it is simply to watch them. --Nancy Bent

Review

Praise for The Thing with Feathers

"Mr. Strycker has the ability to write about the worlds of man and fowl without simplifying either.... He thinks like a biologist but writes like a poet, and one of the small pleasures of The Thing With Feathers is watching him distill empirical research into lyrical imagery.... Part the palm fronds behind his sentences, and you can almost see the British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough standing there in a pith helmet, smiling with amused approval at Mr. Strycker's off-center sensibility." – Wall Street Journal

The Thing With Feathers turns a shrewd, comparative eye on a succession of bird families to explore what [Strycker] calls their ‘human’ characteristics…This is an engaging work which illuminates something profound about all life, including our own.” – The Economist

"Intelligence, altruism, self-awareness, love . . . Strycker is especially engaging describing his own fieldwork with penguins and albatrosses . . . As Strycker writes, 'By studying birds, we ultimately learn about ourselves.'"  – New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
 
"[A] fun and enlightening read. Strycker knows words as well as birds; he has the literary chops to make the results of very complex experiments accessible."  – Newsweek
 
"Strycker has a keen eye for what is most interesting about each species, and he presents each bird story with tight language, humor and even an occasional splash of self-consciousness . . . this is a lively and vibrant book. Bird journalism of the highest order. Bird journalism that crackles."  – The Washington Post

"One of the best bird books you’ll read this decade. Guaranteed." – BirdWatching  

"Beautifully written, filled with strange and lovely details, The Thing with Feathers is a delightful read from start to finish."  – The Boston Globe
 
"It is Strycker's ability to see and draw connections between bird behavior and humanity that make The Thing with Feathers difficult to put down. . . The Thing with Feathers encourages reflection on one's own assumptions about the perceived limitations of the animal kingdom."  – The Oregonian
 
"Strycker marshals original reporting and scientific studies to argue the simple yet radical notion that birds have something to teach us about our own humanity. Spend some time with this book."  – Audubon
 
"Birds intrigue humanity, and in this research round-up Noah Strycker reveals why - in marvels such as the equal-radius paths of flocking starlings and the decontamination chamber that is a vulture's stomach. As he notes, such findings can mirror human realities."  – Nature
 
"Noah Strycker all but lassos readers with his binocular strap to bring people nose to beak with the plumed creatures he knows so well. . . [an] edifying and entertaining book."  – Science News

"Lovely, provocative..." – Robert Krulwich, NPR

"Fascinating" – Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Things With Feathers will encourage you to take a closer look at the natural world around you, and perhaps learn more not only about what you see but who you are." – Seattle Times

“[Strycker] combines the latest in ornithological science with snippets of history and his own vast experience in the field to hatch a thoroughly entertaining examination of bird behavior… In Strycker’s absorbing survey, we find out how much fun it is simply to watch them.” – Booklist, STARRED

“[Strycker’s] prose is difficult to stop reading.” – Publishers Weekly

“A delightful book with broad appeal.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A dazzling variety of avian subjects, including connections between birds and humans.” – Library Journal

“There’s bird watching, then there is obsessing over why nearly 2,500 different species do the things they do. That’s Noah Strycker, and this lovely book is compelling to those that chart the different birds they see on walks, and the rest of us who just gaze longingly at them as they fly through the air.” – Flavorwire

“Noah Strycker explores the increasing likelihood that birds enjoy a vastly richer intellectual, emotional and even artistic life than we smug humans have ever suspected. Read this book.” – Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind and The First Frontier

"As the 'owner' of a dancing Green-cheeked Conure, as a life-long pigeon-lover, seabird researcher, and falcon enthusiast, I can tell you that not only is this book full of solid information—I expected that—but as a writer I am astonished at how loose and easy Noah Strycker has made the reading for us. This is an insightful and wonderfully companionable book. I can’t wait to read more from Strycker; meanwhile we have this gem."  – Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point.

“A thoughtful, engaging book, encompassing pigeon races, physics, vulture baiting, the Backstreet Boys, and a mathematical model applicable to both tennis rankings and chicken hierarchies—a work of dazzling range, nimbly written.” – Brian Kimberling, author of Snapper

“I’ve read books about birds all of my life and this is the one I’ve been waiting for. Birds have a great deal to teach us. Strycker loves birds, understands their magic and mystery, and can extrapolate from their behavior wisdom for us all. At last we have a book worthy of this subject.” – Mary Pipher, author of The Green Boat

Product details

  • Publisher : Riverhead Books; First Edition (March 20, 2014)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1594486352
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1594486357
  • Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
  • Dimensions : 6 x 1.05 x 8.6 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 483 ratings

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
483 global ratings
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Top reviews from other countries

jpm
4.0 out of 5 stars Feathered creatures
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 22, 2014
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E. Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2015
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Charlotte Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising actions among birds
Reviewed in Germany on August 4, 2016
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swaraj raj
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all book lovers
Reviewed in India on October 21, 2019
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Alanda
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine read.
Reviewed in Canada on July 16, 2015
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