ONE WILD BIRD AT A TIME: PORTRAITS OF INDIVIDUAL LIVES (2016)
The acclaimed scientist's encounters with individual wild birds yields “marvelous, mind-altering” (Los Angeles Times) insights and discoveries.
From the book jacket: "In his modern classics One Man’s Owl and Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich has written memorably about his relationships with wild ravens and a great horned owl. In One Wild Bird at a Time, Heinrich returns to his great love: close, day-to-day observations of individual wild birds. There are countless books on bird behavior, but Heinrich argues that some of the most amazing bird behaviors fall below the radar of what most birds do in aggregate. Heinrich’s 'passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science' (New York Times Book Review) lead to fascinating questions — and sometimes startling discoveries. A great crested flycatcher, while bringing food to the young in their nest, is attacked by the other flycatcher nearby. Why? A pair of Northern flickers hammering their nest-hole into the side of Heinrich’s cabin deliver the opportunity to observe the feeding competition between siblings, and to make a related discovery about nest-cleaning. One of a clutch of redstart warbler babies fledges out of the nest from twenty feet above the ground, and lands on the grass below. It can’t fly. What will happen next?"
REVIEWS (5 stars on Amazon): Heinrich “looks closely, with his trademark ‘hands-and-knees science’ at its most engaging, [delivering] what can only be called psychological marvels of knowing” (Boston Globe).
BERND HEINRICH WRITES ABOUT ONE WILD BIRD AT A TIME:
Beauty, the aesthetic sense that is the nexus of art, science, math and perhaps achievement of any sort, is also a sense of what is "right." We think it is uniquely human because we associate it with reason. I'm skeptical: reason may allow us to see why. But who is to say that a red-eyed vireo does not have an aesthetic sense? Is it not artistic when it builds its exquisite hanging nest in a tree fork and decorates the outside of it with hard-to-get hornet nest paper? It does what is right for it. It builds according to its instinct. Beauty is perceived privately, but we have an instinct (not just rationality) for it, and so likely does a bobolink when it returns to a meadow rather than settling in woods. So does a female bird-of-paradise in evaluating the dance display of several males it visits before committing to mate to any one, and so does a female bower-bird, inspecting and judging the quality of the elaborately decorated bowers of males.
As scientists we value discovering the common, the type, the typical, or the model of the population, the species, genus, or other taxonomic entity. We use statistics, to discover the average of any phenomenon, in order to rule out extraneous individual variation, which is thought of as “noise.” But animals thrive of and by diversity, variability, individuality.
One Wild Bird at a Time is a collection of stories of birds I have known. It is not focused on studying a population in order to find out what that species does. It concerns individuals or groups of them that I encountered at random and that happened to be convenient enough to observe. What they did may or may not be what “the species” does. It was simply what this bird or these birds did, where the reference was mostly what one action meant in reference to another. It is about a few individuals I got to know from sometimes short to longer durations, and observed and /or studied without intervention of devices. It was what anyone could do by taking advantage of opportunities, to potentially get another view of species that we may already know.