Monday, August 31, 2009

A Review of "The Life of Birds" by David Attenborough

"The Life of Birds" is a fantastic book written by the renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. It is an excellent read, even for the non-birder, and explores all the major aspects of bird life. Written in a pleasing and often witty style, accompanied by breath-taking photographs, the book is nothing short of a best-selling page-turner. It is without doubt a must-have for bird-watchers and naturalists alike.
Overall, this book is well organized as a collection of 10 chapters, each of which is devoted to a distinct aspect of bird life. Attenborough begins by explaining the evolutionary modifications that have enabled birds to fly, while at other times have also made certain birds flightless. He then expands on the different types of food that birds eat and also how they procure it. Later, he elaborates on the diverse forms of bird communication before moving on to the equally diverse methods of finding suitable mates. He then explains how different birds prepare for parenthood and finally how they perform the actual, and so often exhausting, task of raising a family. In this way, the book gives the reader a walk-through of most of the activities that are part of a bird's life with plenty of examples drawn from a wide range of species.

In fact, the sheer number of examples that have been packed into this book is amazing. To write a book that has so many examples must surely be challenging as far as continuity in reading is concerned. But Attenborough pulls it off with ease. There is a natural flow to the content and the reader is guided along all the way with dexterity. There are, however, only a few Indian birds that are part of this huge collection of examples from all over the world. But this is more than compensated by the fact that the book covers many different families of birds, so that it is easy to correlate the birds cited in the book to those found here in India.

By the time I finished reading it, I was overwhelmed and also surprised, by the amount of knowledge that has been squeezed into this masterpiece. It gave me new insights into the wonderful world of birds and also greatly increased my respect and admiration for these lovely creatures. I am glad I got this book.