224 pages, colour photos
Throughout the bird world, examples of strange and seemingly inexplicable behaviors abound. For example: Why do Male Fairywrens bring flowers to females as a nuptial gift in the pre-dawn darkness? Especially when the gift-givers are not the official mates of the females concerned, but visitors, and furthermore they may give these gifts in full view of the official mate. Why do gangs of White-winged Choughs "kidnap" their neighbors' fledglings and then keep them in their "gang"? Which bird is so big, strong and fierce that stories abound of it killing humans? Tales of Remarkable Birds looks at accounts of murderous Cassowaries and explains just what might have happened. What happens in an albatross "divorce"?
Tales of Remarkable Birds divides the world by continent and takes a series of extraordinary stories from each to illustrate a great diversity of bird behavior. Each continent will have around five or six stories, each described in 1,500 to 2,000 words and examining the truths and the mythology behind each example. An intriguing book from an author with an ability to engage with his audience.
"[...] At first glance this looks to be yet another gift book about birds like so many others [...] On closer inspection, however, it turns out that this is a truly remarkable bird book in which every word is worth a thousand pictures. [...] this book constitutes a
masterclass in the effective communication of scientific findings to a popular audience. It deserves to be – and has the potential to be – a mainstream bestseller [...] Regrettably, it is doubtful that this potential will ever be realized as long as the book is allowed to continue masquerading as a gift title [...] It is earnestly to be hoped, therefore, that the superb content of this volume can be repackaged and retitled as a matter of urgency so as to give the material a fighting chance of captivating the mass-market audience that undoubtedly exists for it and that it so richly deserves."
– Nigel Hopper, Ibis (2016), 158, 213–221
"[...] No, Tales of Remarkable Birds isn’t unique. But these birds, and the stories about them related by Couzens, are truly remarkable. No matter how much you already know about birds, you will learn a great deal here. I know I did."
– Grant McCreary (02-07-2015), read the full review at The Birder's Library
"The title of this book sets its author two challenges; to produce a book that both captures the diversity of bird behaviour and to deliver stories that are new and engaging. That Dominic Couzens manages to achieve both is a real achievement. Through clever choice of stories, we are delivered a taste of the remarkable behaviours that can be seen in the avian world. The book is structured geographically, the author selecting half a dozen or so bird species from each of eight regions and delivering a very readable account in the lively and engaging manner that we have come to expect. Read the book and you will learn why big is beautiful when it comes to toucan bills, discover the only bird family whose breeding range is confined to the Antarctic (it isn't penguins) and how one particular sparrow exists in two very different forms."
– Mike Toms, BTO book reviews
- Northern Wren: Roost site available, not everyone need apply 16
- Great Spotted Cuckoo: A cuckoo, yes – but not as we know it 20
- Great Grey Shrike: Catching on to a neat idea 26
- Common Crossbill: A bird with leftist tendencies 32
- Eurasian Oystercatcher: The oystercatcher's trade unions 36
- Sunbirds: Hovering might be catching 42
- Ostriches: The benefits of sharing a nest 46
- Straw-tailed Whydah and Purple Grenadier: The strange case of the avian stalker 52
- Boubous: It takes two 56
- Widowbirds: A tale of two tails 60
- Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: The life of a professional agitator 68
- Yellow-browed Warbler: The wrong-way migrant 72
- Pheasant-tailed Jacana: Children of the lily-pads 76
- Arabian Babbler: Keeping its friends close... 80
- Swifts and swiftlets: Living in the dark 84
- White-winged Chough: Our family group needs some extra help 90
- Fairywrens: What is the significance of the flower gift? 94
- Great Bowerbird: Stage managing a nuptial bower 98
- Southern Cassowary: Don't mess with this big bird 104
- Varied Sittellas: The benefits of working together 110
North America 114
- White-throated Sparrow: A tale of two sparrows 116
- Black-capped Chickadee: Memories of garden birds 120
- Cliff Swallow: Unnatural selection 124
- Harris's Hawk: The hunter-gatherer 128
- Marbled Murrelet: Breeding in a different world 132
South America 136
- Andean Cock-of-the-Rock: Working together with its friends 138
- Toucans: Why a big bill pays 144
- Antbirds: Following the ants 150
- Tanagers: The crown jewels 154
- Hummingbirds: When the humming stops 158
- Rockhopper Penguin: The most unloved egg 166
- Albatrosses: Masters of the oceans 172
- Emperor and Galapagos Penguins: A tale of two penguins 178
- Sheathbills: The basement cleaners 184
- Wandering Albatross: A slow dance to success 188
- Swallow-tailed Gull: Making the most of dark nights 196
- Megapodes: The patter of great, big feet 200
- New Caledonian Crow: The world's cleverest bird? 206
- Blue Bird-of-paradise: Figs and fruits turn paradise upside down 210
- Extinctions: Islands: lands of lost birds 216
Further reading 220
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Dominic Couzens has written many books on birds and other wildlife including The Secret Lives of British Birds, The Secret Lives of Garden Birds and The Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife, all published by Christopher Helm. His most recent book is The Secret Lives of Puffins with photographer Mark Sisson.