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Weaving together natural history and investigative reporting with mythological and cultural material, On Rare Birds tells the compelling stories of ten rare or extinct bird species – from the tragic demise of the once-abundant passenger pigeon to the shooting death of the last Carolina parakeet in the wild, and from the startling natural defences of the wilful nightjar to the diverse cultural significance of the kingfisher. Some stories bear sad witness to precious species we have lost, but they are all fascinating and often heartwarming or humorous depictions of the unique lives and loves of birds.
On Rare Birds is a visually stunning volume illustrated by author Anita Albus's own superb artwork and by images ranging over five centuries. It will delight anyone who loves birds, laments the depletion of their populations by human hands, and cares about the survival of those species that still stand a chance. With knowledge, devotion, and a true artist's eye, Albus explains in graceful, precise prose why the decline of these bird species is a great loss both to the natural world and, unavoidably, to culture. With each species lost, a world is lost to human understanding-to our arts, our mythology, and our environment.
Part I: Birds Extinct
1 ) The Passenger Pigeon's Eclipse
2 ) The Parakeet and Its Practices
3 ) The Ways of the Great Auk
4 ) The Loneliness of the Macaw
Part II: Birds Threatened and Endangered
5 ) The Wondrous Waldrapp
6 ) The Shy Corncrake
7 ) The Uncanny Goatsucker, or the Willful Nightjar
8 ) The Beautiful Barn Owl
9 ) The Intrepid Hawk Owl
10 ) The Wise Kingfisher
Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Discourse on the Nature of Birds (1770)
List of Illustrations and Credits
Index of Names
Anita Albus is a writer and artist based in Münich and Burgundy who can count Germany's highest essay prize amongst her many awards. Her books include The Art of Arts, The Botanical Drama, The Garden of Songs, and the translation into German of Flashlights by Jules and Edmond de Goncourt. She has illustrated The Passionate Gardener by Rudolf Borchardt and The Jealous Potter by Claude Levi-Strauss.
Anita Albus has created a thoroughly researched text using historical sources and glorious artto produce a fascinating book for bird lovers.
- Richard Cannings, author of "An Enchantment of Birds"
"A twinkle of humour and a twist of wit illuminate the stories of these birds and the human figures that go with them. Life is really a series of stories, and Anita Albus is a superb storyteller."
- Robert Bateman
"In Anita Albus's pictures we see things in a way that we've either unlearned or forgotten."
- Claude Levi-Strauss