Bird Sense What It's Like to Be a Bird

Tim Birkhead

Bloomsbury USA




288 Pages



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What is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise? How do desert birds detect rain hundreds of kilometers away? How do birds navigate by using an innate magnetic compass? Tracing the history of how our knowledge about birds has grown, particularly through advances in technology over the past fifty years, Bird Sense tells captivating stories about how birds interact with one another and their environment.

Never before has there been a popular book about how intricately bird behavior is shaped by birds' senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of fieldwork experiences, insights, and a unique understanding of birds, all firmly grounded in science. No one who reads Bird Sense can fail to be dazzled by it.


Praise for Bird Sense

"The attempt to get at what a bird sees, hears, feels, and thinks is more than worth the effort because there are so many intriguing facts and stories that the reader learns along the way. Remarkable in [its] celebration of birds."—The New York Times

"A collective portrait of bids that is deeply stirring and inspires awe at our own species and its capacity for such intense curiosity."—The Wall Street Journal

"Author of highly respected technical work on the social and sexual behavior of animals, Birkhead is also capable of making this and others' research clear, and even inviting. His skill lies in the way he poses his questions . . . Bird Sense asks another intriguing question: How do birds perceive their universe? What does the world look like to a bird?"—The New York Review of Books

"This is a book to make one whistle, both at the sensational senses of birds and at the patient curiosity and cunning of those who study them."—John Spurling, The New Republic

"The subtitle of British ornithologist Tim Birkhead's fantastic new book is 'What It's Like to Be a Bird.' In seven authoritative chapters, he delivers on the promise, covering sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, birds' magnetic perceptions, and avian emotions."—Bird Watching

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Tim Birkhead

  • Tim Birkhead teaches animal behavior and the history of science at the University of Sheffield. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the author of several books, including The Wisdom of Birds; The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology, which won the McColvin Medal; and The Red Canary, which won the Consul Cremer Prize. He lives in Sheffield, England.