Book Review: The Bird Way

The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman

The author contends that recent research on how birds communicate, work, play, parent, and think reveals that the creatures are remarkably intelligent. The complex behavior of birds recounted here demonstrates that birds have sophisticated mental abilities previously unrecognized by conventional avian research. 

Ackerman supports her thesis with descriptions of the behavior of an entertaining variety of birds from across the world. She brings scientific research alive with personal field observations and accounts of her encounters with colorful and fascinating birds. Throughout, Ackerman reminds readers that birds are thinking beings–their brains are wired differently than those of mammals, giving them increased brain power despite their small size. She further makes the case that bird intelligence shows that humankind is not alone in using language and tools or constructing complex structures and manipulating other creatures.

The Bird Way is an interesting look at the lives and behaviours of birds, that kept a complete bird novice reasonably entertained. The author included a few witty lines that kept the text from being completely dry, which I appreciated.

The Bird Way includes in depth sections on birdsong, parenting, and relationships, among a few others. I know very little about the habits of birds, but to me it all felt incredibly well researched, and I did learn a few things from the information provided.

As someone who actually enjoys listening to the birds singing in the morning, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on birdsong and the different meanings and uses of the different noises that birds make.

And as a parent I enjoyed the sections on bird style parenting, and the similarities and differences between birds and other species.

All in all, a nice book to read if you are interested in learning a bit more about birds, with plenty of amusing facts and anecdotes thrown in.

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