A sweeping and lyrical history of the relationship between birdlife and humankind over twelve millennia, exploring how birds have captured our imaginations and inspired our culture and our science.
In Birds and Us award-winning writer and ornithologist Tim Birkhead takes us on an epic and dazzling journey through our mutual history with birds, from the ibises mummified and deified by Ancient Egyptians to Renaissance experiments on woodpecker anatomy, from Victorian obsessions with egg collecting to the present fight to save endangered species and restore their habitats.
Weaving in stories from his own life as a scientist, including far-flung expeditions to Neolithic caves in Spain and the guillemot colonies of the Faroe Islands, this ambitious book is the culmination of a lifetime's research and unforgettably demonstrates how birds shaped us, and how we have shaped them.
Tim Birkhead is an award-winning author, scientist and university lecturer. He is a Professor of Zoology in the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield.
"[...] the history of birds is not just about science. Telling it needs the forensic skills of a historian, a journalist’s zeal to find and follow a good story, and an equal interest in the sort of people who loved birds and studied their ways. And to bring the story alive, you need to put yourself in it, right in it, your experiences, your knowledge, and your ability to put into words things that will engage and thrill the reader. That is probably why, until recently, there have not been many readable cultural histories of birds. Tim Birkhead, until very recently Professor of Zoology at Sheffield, is a most unusual scientist in the breadth of his interests and his empathy with his subjects, not only birds but also with people. [...] This is modern science at its best and liveliest. It is also a gem of cultural history that could have been written only by someone who is personally immersed in the world of birds. You come away with a renewed sense that birds are wonderful, not least in the way they capture the human heart as well as the head. There is a sparkling and often little-known fact or anecdote on every page.[...]"
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 33(8), August 2022
"[...] This is a stunningly detailed book which cements Birkhead as a master of his subject. This is not light subject matter, and credit is due to the author for successfully bolting together succinct prose and scientific fact, which conveys his immense wealth of knowledge in clear and matter-of-fact style, bringing eye-opening trivia about our predecessors stretching back 12,000 years. It comes thoroughly recommended."
– Josh Jones, BirdGuides
"Tim Birkhead is an eminent scientific ornithologist and a masterful science communicator. Birds and Us wings its way through 12,000 years of our species' engagement with the avian world. He tells it all with delightful gusto, plaiting personal encounters (with birds and bird-people) with challenging historical research and bewitching scientific rigor"
– Tim Dee
"Thought-provoking at every turn, this inspiring, shocking, wonder-filled exploration of our relationship with birds from earliest times delivers a sobering challenge to us living with birds today"
– Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
"A fascinating book about the close and often surprising relationship between birds and people, written by one of our leading ornithologists"
– Stephen Moss
"A beguiling and beautifully illustrated study [...] extraordinary details fly off the page, from how guillemot eggs refuse to harden when boiled, to the discovery of millions of mummified ibises in Egyptian catacombs. Birkhead is a personable, often amusing, guide"
– Mail on Sunday (5 star review)
"[Birkhead's] book arrives enticingly illustrated, but it's his obsessive passion which is most transfixing"
"A compelling combination of first-hand experiences, human stories, birdlore and scientific puzzles that take us through a 12,000-year pageant to the present day [...] the whole narrative fizzes with his infectious enthusiasm, curiosity and energy"
– Jeremy Mynott, TLS
"Birkhead's approach to writing – hard, clear sentences; deep, revelatory looking – has the same effect as his microscope, making us see the familiar with new eyes"
– Alex Preston
"A brilliant and passionate celebration – how birds enrich our lives and now, more than ever, depend on us"
– Nick Davies, author of Cuckoo
"Justly acclaimed for his brilliance at explaining complex science in a beguilingly lively style"
– BBC Wildlife