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Bird Brain:  It’s a Compliment!   

Book review by Janet Mason

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

Jennifer Ackerman, Penguin Press, 2020.

Author Jennifer Ackerman traveled the world to join researchers who are finding that birds are cognitively complex creatives.  They are social learners, explicit communicators, tool users, problem solvers, selfless altruists, cunning cheaters, and creative artists, whose variety of behaviours across many species indicate an underlying intelligence that is more than just instinct.

Recent research has gone beyond the historical focus on the migrating birds of the Americas and Europe to discover entirely different behaviours in non-migrating species.  For example, migrating male birds arriving in spring to proclaim and defend territory in a rushed imperative to reproduce is not the norm in the vast majority of bird species.  Female scientists are also revealing previously ignored behaviours in female birds such as complex bird song and mating with multiple partners in apparently monogamous relationships.

This fascinating book will enhance your appreciation of birds, their adaptability, diversity, and astonishing cleverness.  With the holiday season coming, it would make a great present for the bird enthusiast in your family, which may be you!