Posted by: atowhee | September 6, 2016


Two new titles from Princeton University Press:

Britain’s Birds:
An Identification Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland
Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop & David Tipling

Paperback | 2016 | | sale $21.00–regular price is $35 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691158891
560 pp. | 6 x 8 | 3,200+ color photos.

britsbirdsThis dense, updated, brilliant field guide is the best now in print for anybody birding Britain and Ireland, whether or not all those islands stay in the E.U. the birds won’t care.  And for us Yanks the guide is very good at differentiating between their Teal and our Green-winged Teal, between their Velvet Scoter and our White-winged Scoter. BTW: this book predicts an imminent extirpation of the invasive Ruddy Duck.  LIke Starlings vs. our cavity-nesters here the Ruddy was death on many of the less competitive waterfowl in Europe. scan0001This guide has very adeptly done sections on some of the tougher IDs: their skulking warblers, young buntings, and finches.  Also includes latest estimates of population for each species.  Less than 7000 pairs of Ring Ouzels, 140-thousand breeding pairs of Herring Gull.


Bird Brain:
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
Nathan Emery

With a foreword by Frans de Waal (author of his own book on animal intelligence, Are We Smart Enough…)

Hardcover | 2016 | $29.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691165172
192 pp. | 8 x 10 | 175 color illus.

bird-brain-cvrEmery took a year off from his bird smarts research to write this book.  Bravo. He unpacks what we know and we don’t about birds problem-solving, tool-making and social communications.  How much do birds learn from observing or experience and how much do they reason out?  This is a good read and even better reference for all of us interested in how our avian neighbors get along in this world that is ever-more manmade. Very good illustrations and not too much scientific jargon for us lay-birders.

Back in the dark ages of animal research it was dominated by the rat-runners, behaviorists.  That old school of mechanistic, Pavlovian psychology is so not current and so devalued that it is a source of great relief to me.  I spent my young years on a farm with a variety of animals from smart dogs and turkeys to the less smart sheep, from clever milk cows to feral cats, from crows to possessive Mockingbirds …and those 20th Century behaviorists never really understood how real animals behave in the real world where cages and special treats are irrelevant.  Do psychology departments still run rats?scan0002 scan0003


  1. So, ¨birdbrain¨ is now a compliment!

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