By Edgington's Reviews > The Genius of Birds

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jan 23, 2017

really liked it

Here we have a wonderful exploration of the inside of birds' heads and a dismissal of several old chestnuts about our avian friends. It seems they are not 'bird brains,' or simple creatures acting only on instinct, but very smart, in some cases astonishingly smart critters. An African Grey parrot named Throckmorton that apes a cell phone's ring, a sneeze, a vacuum cleaner. Another talking bird whose favorite expression reveals its owner's frustration as it yacks over and over, 'talk, damn you, talk!' Much of this section is laugh out loud fun, as for example when Ackerman talks about a bird that imitates a nearby shepherd calling his dogs, and puts those dogs through their paces till they're exhausted.
Despite tossing around terms like 'syrinx,' lateral magnocelluar nucleus of the nidopallium,' 'subsong,' and 'Cencontlatolly,' (meaning four-hundred tongues) Ackerman never condescends or over-simplifies but explains. A bit Annie-Dillard mixed with another Ackerman, Diane by name, this author clearly respects, understands and idolizes birds. Avoiding her own admonition to steer clear of 'the danger of anthropomorphism,' Ackerman maintains her objectivity throughout, ever curious and willing to admit bewilderment. With citations to Thoreau, Darwin, Lorenz and others, she's crafted a narrative about our feathered friends that's timely, considering climate change and its effects on birds, and authoritative. Well worth reading, four stars only because it was too darned short. Maybe there'll be a sequel.
Byron Edgington, author of A Vietnam Anthem. A Vietnam Anthem: What The War Gave Me

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Genius of Birds.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

January 20, 2017 – Started Reading
January 23, 2017 – Shelved
January 23, 2017 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.