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The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration
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The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  359 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Acclaimed scientist and author Bernd Heinrich has returned every year since boyhood to a beloved patch of western Maine woods. What is the biology in humans of this deep-in-the-bones pull toward a particular place, and how is it related to animal homing?

Heinrich explores the fascinating science chipping away at the mysteries of animal migration: how geese imprint true visu
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published April 1st 2010)
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  359 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Petra Eggs
Bernd Heinrich is one of my favourite authors. He always brings new insight into the natural world, and by describing animal behaviour, illuminates our own, as we are all connected and it is only by evolution we differ.

This book starts off 10 star. I had thought that migratory birds found their way home by a sense we don't have or understand, but not so. There are many ways of homing, many different senses - navigation by the stars, by magnetism, by scent, by polarised light (maybe), by visual
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, science
From the title of Bernd Heinrich’s new book, The Homing Instinct, I was expecting a scientific exploration of the migratory behaviors of birds and other creatures that embark on long journeys to and from their breeding grounds, but I found, along with science, an introspective look into the nature and the need to return home. Mixed in with the science, both the author’s own research and that of other scientists, I discovered a beautifully written book consisting of many stories and observations, ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Fact: my last name is name of a tiny village in southern India where storks and herons migrate post monsoon season. When I visited this village several years ago, the villagers mention how the birds move around the area with familiarity. In this book, Heinrich wonders over the necessity of migration, the pull the birds and insects seem to have to a place, to a season. Its a very calming read as Heinrich gently unfolds one of the most natural and mesmerizing aspects of birds.
Katherine Rue
Feb 19, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I love Heinrich's writing about the natural world and the astonishing feats animals perform in finding and making home. I wish he had spent more than a page contemplating our own place in the broader scheme of mass extinctions of gregarious species--passenger pigeons, the Colorado locust, etc. He hints at problems he thinks we will face as a species, but leaves all the work to the reader to draw the parallels and conclusions. Otherwise a fascinating look at how various species define ...more
Stuart Malcolm
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this from the title but was sorely disappointed. A mishmash of information, presented poorly. The autobiographical chapters were self-indulgent and the hunting one was just appalling. Some of the wildlife writing was good but there just wasn't enough of it, which is why ultimately it was such a let down.
Ann Michael
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like his writing style and his insights, and this book is good for people who don't want a deep dive into the evolutionary science & can appreciate that what Heinrich is writing is both metaphorical AND scientific.

It has a few chapters that don't mesh well with the rest of the book, as though written separately (as I assume many of them were) and then an editor said to add it here. The hunting chapter is one of those--it fits, sort of, but not seamlessly, as some of the other essays do.

Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finally! It took me a while to get through this, but I was distracted, between big life events and many of the other books I want to read, have started to read, or finished reading since my last post. This is the first Bernd Heinrich book for me to read; I had been wanting to read something by him for a while. At first I wasn’t sure, but I think this was a good one to start with. It is a collection of loosely related pieces. About half of the book is about the science of migration, and the othe ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I’ve always been fascinated by the homing instinct, and particularly the history of science being unable to completely explain how it works. So I appreciated the opportunity to read Heinrich’s new book all about the homing instinct.

And it is all about the homing instinct. Quite a lot, even for a reader so interested in the subject. Birds, animals, insects, amphibians, humans are all included. I appreciate and agree with his predicating his descriptions of the creatures with, “I realize that this
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecology
Animal behavior: Migration and homing instincts

This is an interesting book by Bernd Heinrich, a renowned scholar that discusses interesting facts about animal migration and their attachments for their habitats. The book is largely focused on behavior with no discussion of genetics as it relates to the behavior, and no prior knowledge of biology is required to understand and appreciate this book.

Homemaking is practiced by animals regardless of their position in the evolutionary ladder. It is es
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Rating it 3.5

I was expecting to understand more thoroughly the mechanisms that drive the homing instincts of animals, so 20 minutes after beginning the book, I was disappointed. But I kept reading and suddenly I realized that I was holding a book that offered something better. It seems that we are still unraveling the secrets of homing, and what Heinrich gives us are example after example of homing in action. Observations galore, experiments, and wonderful sketches abound through the book. I was
Juli Anna
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history
Heinrich has long been a favorite natural history writer of mine. His way of balancing personal anecdotes with scientific observations and literature completely appeals to my own way of seeing the natural world, and the longer I live in New England, the closer I feel to his perspective. This was a truly lovely volume, full of wonderous facts, reasonable speculation, and poetic musings about how different animals (including us) conceptualize their homes. I am a highly "homing" creature, so this w ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Caleb's work has book club and this was the first book.
I really enjoyed lots of it, from albatross to bees to monarchs to godwits and so much more, the migration and making of homes was discussed and it is all very interesting.
Another in the club and I were a little unsure if this is a popular book about science (sometimes discussing animal's emotion would fall here) or a book 'preaching to the choir' of scientists (some of his deeper analysis of research would fit here).
It was also part memoir
Julien Bramel
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
The first half is interesting and scientific in focus, the second half is a bit more autobiographical and sometimes reads as a series of vignettes stitched together. It’s fine if you want to read about the Maine woods, hunting, local history sprinkled with animal and plant details. But i was expecting it to deal more in detail with homing and migration (why, how). I get the sense some of the scientific questions are not completely settled.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
It was an interesting read. a little to detailed for me but that is probably because I read mostly fiction. I giving it three stars not because it wasn't a great book on the topic, it just did not appeal to me.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I found the writing style very bland so it took me forever to read. But it was a good book.
Stacy Mignano
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: htbc-books
Good writing, just not a cohesive book.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book stuffed with interesting knowledge and stories about how insects, birds and fish find their way and build homes.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heinrich writes about entire species as if they were friends he knows. Such a fantastic read!
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: review
Toch een beetje ontgoocheld. Ik kom wel van een buitengewoon boek, van Jennifer Ackerman, met hetzelfde onderwerp.
Mitch Grady
Feb 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
"Begs the question" used for "raises the question". I soldiered on for a little longer, but it couldn't hold my attention after that little bit of illiteracy.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Honestly, I was pretty excited about this book. The title and summary seemed like something that would be really interesting to me. There was quite a bit that I learned or was intrigued by in this book... I am going to share some of those thoughts/passages in my review because I really appreciated Heinrich commenting on and bringing them forth in his book.

Yet, there are some things that really hold me back from rating this book higher than a three. It basically has to do with organization of tho
J.S. Green
We're familiar with birds migrating even if we don't know exactly how they get to precise places each year. We also know that salmon can find their way back to the same rivers and lakes where they were born, and eels do that in reverse, being born in the ocean and spending their lives in rivers before returning to the ocean to spawn. But these behaviors extend to many other animals and in different ways. Some butterflies migrate, and even though they may not complete the journey, their offspring ...more
Ken Johnston
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Pretty bad. A few interesting nature facts. Heinrich thinks we are interested in his life & family. Boring.
Sep 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
It is about time I admit I am not going to finish reading this book. Based on the title, I expected something poetic and literary that used animal migration as a jumping-off point for larger discussions about life. In reality, the book was heavy on science and minute details about migration that I jut did not find interesting. Perhaps it takes a turn in later chapters, but I simply don't have enough interest to keep going with it.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, conservation
This book was so much more than I initially expected it to be. My daughter bought it at a library book sale and, ironically, gave it to me as I was helping her move from one home to another. Based upon the title and the picture of a bird on a cover, I thought it was about bird migrations, but it is about the definition of home, the nesting instinct, the homing instinct, evolution and extinction...and it's not just about birds, but spiders, locusts, bees, extinct passenger pigeons, and even human ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fictie, 2016
Wat. Een. Teleurstelling.

'Een verzameling van feiten en anekdotes van en over Bernd Heinrich, gekruid met een vleugje wetenschap' zou een betere titel geweest zijn. Over het trekinstinct van vogels en andere migrerende dieren, gaat het enkel in de eerste honderd pagina's. Daarna krijgen we een opsomming van feitjes over allerlei soorten dieren, af en toe gelinkt aan het 'thuisgevoel' van de soort, maar soms ook ogenschijnlijk willekeurig. Daarnaast zijn deze 'feitjes' vaak anekdotes, waarvan he
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book will browsing in the library and the title caught my eye. The idea of a nesting instinct interests me so I started reading this book on homing. I didn't realize that it was a scientific book about ecology at first because of the way it was written. It read like prose and was very easy to read and enjoyable. Some sections I appreciated more than others. I liked the stories about bee lining, the spider "Charlotte", lady beatles, and hunting. Reading this book was like making a ne ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about the natural world--the kind of book that one might need to read more than once because it is so full of information. It is about more than just animal migration; mating, food selection, and many other topics are also covered, and botanical information as well. I really appreciated how the author tied together information gleaned from his studies as a distinguished biology professor as well as his own life--spanning many years--to reach conclusions that make the b ...more
Gary Knapton
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An amazing find. Heinrich patiently and lovingly examines the homing instinct of birds - from bumblebees to cranes - and relates them to humans. The science is delivered as poetry and he writes in a tactile and sensuous manner. Even the concept of applying homing instincts to our own species - to explore how birds can inform us of our own understanding and functions of "home" - well, it is masterful and beautiful in an Einsteinien way. Better yet, the book is part-bio - as the author relates the ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
In another engaging book from one of my favorite nature writers, the author addresses the concept of homing or more simply the instinct among animal species, inlcuding humans, to create, maintain and travel to and from a home. While many may first think of migratory birds, and they do make up large portions of the book, many mammal, fish, insect and other species are also explored. Among animals which do not maintain a fixed point as a home, the herding instinct is an expression of being "home" ...more
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Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child. He studied at the University of Maine and UCLA and is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont.

He is the author of many books including Winter World, Ravens in Winter, Mind of the Raven and Why We Run. Many of his books focus on the natural world just outside the cabin door.

Heinrich has w
“There is a period near the beginning of every man's life when he has little to cling to except his unmanageable dreams, little to support him except good health, and nowhere to go but all over the place by E. B. White” 0 likes
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