book review

Review: The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

17 January 2021

Jennifer Ackerman: The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

Scribe Publications, 2020

ISBN (13):9781925713763, pp. 368, $35.00

As an amateur birder who dislikes reading highly technical books about birds, The Bird Way seemed like an entertaining way to learn more about the birds I see every day and explore the world of birds I know nothing about. Jennifer Ackerman divides the book into five sections: talk (communication), work, play, love (relationships), and parent (how birds parent their youngs). These different aspects of bird life aim to bring awareness to how birds think and live and draw comparisons to human life. 

The Bird Way is a little snapshot into what we know about birds, particularly focusing on social and behavioural aspects of birds and using them as indicator of intelligence. As a bonus, throughout the book, Ackerman includes interesting factoids and light humour that makes the book an easy read.

One of the best things about this book is its heavy focus on Australian birds, giving insight into the birds that live in our very backyards. From my limited knowledge as an amateur birdwatcher, the explanation of behavioural ecology and ornithological science presented in layman’s terms was incredibly fascinating and I felt flooded with new knowledge. There was an abundance of information that presented all of the ways birds can be varied and unique. And as a bonus, the book had beautiful illustrations dispersed throughout. 

Although the book is engaging, at times it felt that the book lacked direction. After reading a section I was left wondering what the bigger picture was or what point was supposed to have been made. It felt as though some sections were rushed and were written with no clear purpose. There were also some passages that included information without context that left me confused as a reader. 

Ackerman draws on the work of Tim Lowe, an author and biologist, throughout the book and those who enjoy reading The Bird Way might also enjoy reading Where a Song Began by Tim Lowe to further their bird learnings. 

Overall, this book was an easy and enjoyable read which reads like a little treasure trove of interesting bird facts. Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll look at the birds in your own backyard differently. I would recommend The Bird Way to anyone who enjoys reading relaxing books, non-fiction, or enjoys learning about birds.

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