A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided in his work and teaching by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds' companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.
Birds are the sentries – and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door. Unwitting humans create a zone of disturbance that scatters the wildlife. Respectful humans who heed the birds acquire an awareness that radically changes the dynamic. We are welcome in their habitat. The birds don't fly away. The larger animals don't race off. No longer hapless intruders, we now find, see, and engage the deer, the fox, the red-shouldered hawk – even the elusive, whispering wren.
Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author's own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves.
Watch an introduction to the book by the author:
Jon Young is on the leading edge of animal tracking and understanding bird language. He has been exploring animal communication for 35 years and was mentored by the famous tracker Tom Brown Jr. as well as a tribal elder in Africa. Jon developed the 8 Shields Cultural Mentoring System, a model that has influenced more than 100 nature programs in communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe and is also creator of the Shikari Method for data collection, which is used by the USFWS. Jon has given over 1000 public presentations and has mentored numerous students of his own. Married, with six children, Jon lives in Santa Cruz, California.
"[...] If the idea of studying deep bird language sounds intriguing to you, then you definitely need to read What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World. But even if it doesn’t, there’s enough practical advice (like how to avoid scaring birds away by your approach) and cool stories (like the cardinals), to make it worth reading.
When I finished reading the book, I was going to leave it at that. But as I’ve been thinking about it in the process of writing this review, I think it’s more than that. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever seriously pursue the study outlined in this book. Even so, it’s already influenced my birding. In the few birding outings I’ve had since reading What the Robin Knows, I’ve had a more relaxed, attentive attitude and noticed things that I would not have before. I’ll stop short of making any sort of grand claim, like “this book has forever changed the way I bird”. That remains to be seen. But it has made an impact and opened my eyes a little. To me, that makes it more than worth reading."
- Grant McCreary (22-09-2012), read the full review at The Birder's Library