‘There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.’ This is one scientist’s pithy distinction between mammal brains and bird brains- two ways to make a highly intelligent mind. But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and, lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviours. What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, and survive. They’re also revealing not only the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, and disturbing abilities we once considered uniquely our own – deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, and infanticide – but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play.
Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan, to the rolling hills of lower Austria and the islands of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect – in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behaviour – birds vary. It’s what we love about them. As E.O. Wilson once said, when you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.