Naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt, an ornithology teacher and researcher, examines the amazing talents and personalities of the most common of birds. She muses on the tarnished reputation of the starling, the sexed-up antics of male woodpeckers, and the mysterious behavior and startling population explosion of crows in her hometown. Through the eye and voice of this talented writer, birds provide a fascinating point of contact with the natural world at large.
Esoteric lore about avian life makes up the bulk of this informative and charming volume. Haupt, a former education director of the Seattle Audubon Society, has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with ornithology and with field observation in particular. Having worked in a raptor rehabilitation center in New England and studied bird life in the South Pacific, Haupt channels her hands-on experiences into appealing images and engaging vignettes. She also offers up a wealth of apt literary and well-documented scientific references about even the most common of birds. From the overabundant and much-maligned starling to the majestic and rare snowy owl, Haupt imparts her wonder at these airborne creatures: "Birds will give you a window, if you watch them," she writes. "They will show you secrets from another world." The reader is treated to adventures in backyard birding as well as anecdotes about birds cohabiting with humans, both as pets and as pests. The simple pen and ink drawings are a pleasing graphic complement to the occasionally powerful writing. Unfortunately, when Haupt strays from detailing her extraordinary knowledge of birds to elevating the rather mundane experiences of her family life to high philosophical import, her prose becomes precious. Still, both casual and more experienced birders, as well as nature lovers in general, will find this work both a resource and a pleasure. Illus.