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By: Bridget Stutchbury
249 pages, Col plates, b/w illus
Biologist Bridget Stutchbury takes readers along on her escapades as a bird detective, stalking subjects through the woods for hours, taking blood samples from nestlings for DNA analysis, and mounting miniature tracking devices on tiny backs. She captures several young white-and-brown male purple martins and paints them the darker color of mature males to see if the painted youngsters are more successful than their unaltered peers in wresting away nest sites from older males. They are! "The Private Lives of Birds "is a treasure trove of fascinating insights into bird behavior.
But understanding the social lives of birds does much more than slake our curiosity. Aware that many birds will not occupy an area unless other birds are already there, biologists used mirrors and two-dimensional cutouts to lure Atlantic puffins to establish colonies off the coast of Maine, getting curious puffins to visit the site and linger long enough to encounter a live bird. As Stutchbury says, "Trying to save birds without understanding what makes them tick is a shot in the dark ... birds are highly social, and their social needs are at least as important as their physical needs."
"The Private Lives of Birds is an excellent introduction to the behavior and social lives of birds. Anyone wanting to learn more about how birds live would be well advised to give it a read."
- Grant McCreary (27-08-2010), read the full review at The Birder's Library
"With her trademark clarity and humor, Bridget Stutchbury – "bird detective" extraordinaire – reveals avian lives of uncommon drama, rife with adultery, divorce, sibling rivalry, lying, social climbing and life-or-death marathons-a peek into a world at once familiar and wonderfully different from our own."
- Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding
"Bridget Stutchbury dodges killer bees, wakes before dawn to follow birds through the forest, and peers through a "riparia-scope" at hundreds of eggs. Don't miss her stories of personal adventure and her far-reaching scientific synthesis explaining the amazing behaviors of birds and what they mean for the birds' survival and future."
- Miyoko Chu, author of Songbird Journeys
"A treasure-house of insights into the lives of birds and the glorious evolutionary energy that powers their displays and courtship-and their not infrequent infidelities."
- Graeme Gibson, author of The Bedside Book of Birds
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