For the answer, read Bridget Stutchbury’s “The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life” ($25, Walker & Company). She makes a convincing argument that if we are to save threatened bird species, we need to know their social needs as well as their physical ones.
The bird detective delivers in many ways, packaging facts and insights, science and adventure with a folksy delivery that never undermines the seriousness of her research.
The writing in “Flights if Imagination: Extraordinary Writing about Birds” ($23, Greystone) is excellent, the main drawback being that some pieces were first published 20 years or so ago, leaving us to wonder what has happened since.
But put that aside and appreciate the talents of good writers. My favorite contributions were “The Colors of a Bird’s Egg,” “The Fall of a Sparrow” and “Big Bird Gone Bad,” the last an extraordinary piece by Charles Graeber.
He travels to Australia to find the southern cassowary, an avian hulk of 6-foot-plus and 180 pounds with legs tipped with three claws: one 5-inch spike and two short sharp hooks (check out the Google images).
This is not your cuddly Big Bird of Sesame Street, unless Big Bird suddenly had a Hell’s Angel attitude transplant.
Picture this: tourists held hostage in a bus while a hungry cassowary keeps head-butting the door; cassowaries chasing hikers and joggers; angry cassowary chasing a ranger on a motorcycle and slicing the mud guard; adolescent cassowaries invading a luxury resort’s pool area, snatching a purse and being chased around the pool (what was he thinking) before sliding into the lunch buffet.
Western North America has a greater variety of bird species than the eastern section, so the fourth edition of “Peterson Field Guide to Birds” ($20, Houghton Mifflin) covers almost 600 species on 176 color plates with 588 range maps.
Professional birders have updated everything and, in this digital age, also created 33 podcasts.
Gardeners tend to separate gardens from nature, but Linda Chalker-Scott’s “The Informed Gardener Blooms Again” ($19, paperback, University of Washington Press) plants nature back where it belongs.
In the process of adding evidence-based opinions, she throws a right cross to our myths.
The Blues band – Bing, Lulu, Uno, Eggbert and Sammi – head across the country searching for new sounds for their concert with Bing’s bird checklist as their guide in the children’s book “The Blues Go Birding Across America” ($9, Dawn Publications).
Along the way, the musicians surf (and see a black-footed albatross); fish, where they hear ring-billed gulls (“They don’t have harmony – no new song for us”); get new jewelry at a bird-banding station; and admired the beat of a pileated woodpecker.
Each stop on their journey has three educational pieces: a birding tip, a notebook and a field guide, combined in an easy-to-follow whole by writers Carol Malnor and Sandy Fuller, and illustrator Louise Schroeder.
Cornelius Randolf Raven takes readers on a delightfully irreverent 21-stop tour in “Amazing Alaska! A Raven’s Eye View” ($13, Sasquatch).
After C.R. Raven’s intro at each section, science takes over to help explain the midnight sun, volcanoes, rain forest, giant vegetables, mosquitoes and more.
Alaska resident Deb Vanasse wrote “Amazing” and Seattle resident K.E. Lewis illustrated it.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.