I have loved birds as long as I can remember. There are certain brisk spring and autumn mornings when sound travels clear and far that take me back to my grandfather’s house, where I first learned bird calls and names. He taught me about robins, cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers, ducks, geese, owls and more. He told me about how they would fly halfway across the world to come visit us every year. I was a casual observer until I went to college, when I became obsessed with the white pelicans that would rest in the LSU lakes for winter vacation. While observing the pelicans’ beauty, I learned about cormorants, snowy egrets, little blue and great blue herons that fed along the shores beside the giant white birds. Watching the birds soothes me. It was therapeutic to sit outside for hours on end, soaking up God’s creation after a stressful class. When my husband and I bought our first house, I prioritized hanging a bird feeder in the backyard. I enjoyed watching our neighborhood birds and was incredibly thankful they were already familiar with our feeder when the world came to a screeching halt in March.
Like so many others during this pandemic, I found solace sipping coffee on Saturday mornings on my back porch, watching the birds blissfully fly in and out of my yard. Having been forced to slow down, we witnessed bird behaviors that we might otherwise have missed. We watched white breasted nuthatch fledgings harass their parents for sunflower seeds, hopping up and down the oak tree trunk like tiny acrobats. We laughed at a clever ruby-throated hummingbird freeze into hiding position in a camellia bush - camouflaged in color and shape like one of its leaves - when another territorial male dived in to protect its feeder. We learned the calls of so many songbirds and decided that the Carolina chickadee had the sweetest, purest and loveliest sound of them all.
Jennifer Ackerman’s The Bird Way is the perfect book for a bird nerd like myself. I checked it out from the library for two reasons. First, because birds, duh. Second, because our library's summer reading committee is already narrowing down top titles for the 2021 theme Tales and Tails (expect a lot of animal themed books on this blog for the next few months). I typically can't commit to a nonfiction book (I give up after a few chapters of most of them except memoirs), but I kept coming back to this one because it was so incredibly fun and interesting to me. In it, I learned how birds across species live varied lives. They are as diverse in their foraging, singing, parenting and even playing as we humans are. I found myself often Googling images of the foreign and exotic birds she researched: the adorable keas, the colorful fairy-wrens and the dastardly magpies. I will probably never see these birds in the wild, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about their behaviors from a dedicated researcher and talented writer like Ackerman.
If you're looking to take your bird knowledge to the next level, check out The Bird Way from your local library or purchase a copy from your local bookstore or on Amazon here.
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Danielle Kelley Tolbird
Surrounded by books by day, Tolbird works as the communications coordinator of her local library. She writes about her favorite books, faith in God and daily life.