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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Books -- bird intelligence & birds of Europe, N. Africa, Middle East

The Genius of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman, Penguin Press, hardcover, 338 pages, index, $28.00 — Science writer Ackerman offers a detailed and fascinating account of the intelligence of birds. She explores all behaviors that can indicate a brain that has worked to adapt birds to their world. Puzzles, lock-picking, math, elaborate courtship rituals — she gives us a well-written story that tracks the fairly recent discovery that birds are smart animals.


Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Frederic Jiguet and Aurelian Audevard, Princeton Press, soft cover, 443 pages, index, $29.95 — Translated from the French, this pocket-sized guide to 860 species is exceptionally well illustrated. Photos can be iffy, but in this case they are very well chosen, and very well reproduced. It’s a book to pick up now and again, to page through and discover the many birds these areas share with us. Some are resident, some migrant, some casuals. Maps are worth mentioning because of the colors used to designate geographic areas of breeding, wintering, and residency — red, light blue, and purple. I always check the maps, hoping someday the person who does maps will realize that use of brown and red and green and shades of gray makes the maps impossible for those of us who do not see all colors accurately. Here, finally, is a book that could be poster-boy for ID guide maps. Well done, Princeton!


Merganser chicks were in a rush to leave the nest

A hen Common Merganser was trying to exit the nest box she used this spring, barely ahead of two of her chicks. The usual procedure is for the hen to leave first, then from the ground call to encourage the chicks to follow. There was no exit cue needed here. The box was in the yard of a Watertown home. The box was fashioned from a section of tree that contained a cavity.

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