The Bird Detective: Investigating The Secret Lives of Birds

Book Review for Bridget Stutchbury Latest Book

If you had asked me a month ago, what would be my choice of book to read on a sunny deck at the cottage one Spring morning, the answer would have been: “Something light and fun, or a thriller, perhaps The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.” Ask me that question today and my answer is: “The Bird Detective”.

So what converted this avid fiction reader to fall in love with a documentary book?

The answer is Bridget Stutchbury’s writing style. This PhD author, is able to use a simple and elegant tone that engages, not belittles, the novice bird lover and allows you to become involved in the drama of what could have been a very dry bird study. The accessibility of Bridget’s language was refreshing. Sprinkled with illustrations, photos and graphs (that are surprisingly easily explained for anyone to understand), this book will have you laughing and “ah-haing” from cover to cover.

This book details the territorial nature of birds and describes their nesting habits, revealing why some species choose solitude, while others prefer to live in overcrowded groups. Bridget explains why some birds readily “divorce”, why parents don’t treat their sons and daughters as equals, why many females sneak in quick sex with neighboring males and why some adults forgo breeding altogether. Perhaps most importantly, she outlines how climate change and other pressures of the modern world are forcing birds to change their habits as they fight for their very survival.

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Bridget shares her experience in learning to really listen to the nature around her. Her description of her surroundings will make you feel like you are beside her, in the moment, versus just reading an account from a scientist. I found myself following her lead, and really listening to the nature around me, beyond my normal “city hearing”, where my general comment when I reach cottage country is “Wow, I forgot how quiet it is up here.” Now, I open the window, step onto the deck, and here a symphony of nature all around me that I am dying to meet! Who are these songbirds that make such a welcoming sound each morning?

By starting some chapters with a scene, that could easily fit into a soap opera, and if you didn’t know the subject matter you may sometimes forget you are reading about songbirds, Bridget captures your attention. She then goes into explaining the “why” behind the behavior illustrated by the scene. Other chapters she will start with an anecdote from her travels with her family, again making the book read as if you were talking to a friend over afternoon tea, rather than reading a well researched study.

I would recommend this book to anyone planning on camping or heading to the cottage this Spring and Summer. It is a refreshing reminder of what you could be missing by not hearing what is already around you.

Rating: 4/5
Where to purchase: www.amazon.ca
Price: $20.68 (hardcover)