Bird-related Reading

OF PARROTS AND PEOPLE 
The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating, and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species

by Mira Tweti 

There are an estimated 50 million parrots in the United States today. Their intelligence and extraordinary personalities make them beloved members of the families that bring them into their homes.

In Of Parrots and People, award-winning journalist and long-time parrot owner Mira Tweti reveals the complex world of parrots-their astonishing intellect, often-intimate relationships with humans, and, unfortunately, the calamitous practices of the bird industry. Delving into the secret world of the global parrot trade, Tweti documents the forces driving these remarkable creatures to the brink of extinction. A critical addition to the popular shelf of books about animals and their behavior, Of Parrots and People is a startling wake-up call in the tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

THE THING WITH FEATHERS
The Surprising Lives Of Birds And What They Reveal About Being Human

by Noah Strycker

An entertaining and profound look at the lives of birds, illuminating their surprising world—and deep connection with humanity.
 
Birds are highly intelligent animals, yet their intelligence is dramatically different from our own and has been little understood. As we learn more about the secrets of bird life, we are unlocking fascinating insights into memory, relationships, game theory, and the nature of intelligence itself.

The Thing with Feathers explores the astonishing homing abilities of pigeons, the good deeds of fairy-wrens, the influential flocking abilities of starlings, the deft artistry of bowerbirds, the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the lifelong loves of albatrosses, and other mysteries—revealing why birds do what they do, and offering a glimpse into our own nature.

Drawing deep from personal experience, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, Noah Strycker spins captivating stories about the birds in our midst and shares the startlingly intimate coexistence of birds and humans. With humor, style, and grace, he shows how our view of the world is often, and remarkably, through the experience of birds. You’ve never read a book about birds like this one.

ALEX & ME
How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

By Irene Pepperberg 

On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."

What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.

The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, "I love you."

Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin—despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one univer­sity to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

WESLEY THE OWL
The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

by Stacey O'Brien 


On Valentine's Day 1985, biologist Stacey O'Brien first met a four-day-old baby barn owl -- a fateful encounter that would turn into an astonishing 19-year saga. With nerve damage in one wing, the owlet's ability to fly was forever compromised, and he had no hope of surviving on his own in the wild. O'Brien, a young assistant in the owl laboratory at Caltech, was immediately smitten, promising to care for the helpless owlet and give him a permanent home. Wesley the Owl is the funny, poignant story of their dramatic two decades together. 


With both a tender heart and a scientist's eye, O'Brien studied Wesley's strange habits intensively and first-hand -- and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl's lifetime). As Wesley grew, she snapped photos of him at every stage like any proud parent, recording his life from a helpless ball of fuzz to a playful, clumsy adolescent to a gorgeous, gold-and-white, macho adult owl with a heart-shaped face and an outsize personality that belied his 18-inch stature. Stacey and Wesley's bond deepened as she discovered Wesley's individual personality, subtle emotions, and playful nature that could also turn fiercely loyal and protective -- though she could have done without Wesley's driving away her would-be human suitors! 

O'Brien also brings us inside the prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animal they loved. As O'Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes important discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term "The Way of the Owl" to describe his inclinations: he did not tolerate lies, held her to her promises, and provided unconditional love, though he was not beyond an occasional sulk. When O'Brien develops her own life-threatening illness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal. 

Enhanced by wonderful photos, Wesley the Owl is a thoroughly engaging, heartwarming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty. It is sure to be cherished by animal lovers everywhere. 

THE PARROT WHO OWNS ME
The Story of a Relationship

by Joanna Burger

“Birds are my passion,” says Joanna Burger, “but parrots are my weakness.” Fifteen years ago, when se adopted a neglected, orphaned thirty-six year old parrot named Tiko, she entered on of the most complex relationships of her life.

Sullen and hostile when he entered Dr. Burger’s home, Tiko gradually warmed as she carefully persuaded him of her good intentions. Eventually he courted her, building nests inside household furniture during mating season and trying to coax her into them. He nursed her vigilantly through a bout with Lyme disease, regularly preening each strand of hair on the pillow as she slept. For a while he even fought her husband for her attentions, but eventually theirs became a relationship of deep mutual trust.

The Parrot Who Owns Me is also the story of the science of birds, and of parrots in particular (America’s third most commonly owned pet, after cats and dogs). Woven into the narrative are insights and fascinating revelations from Joanna Burger’s work — not only about parrots, but about what it means to be human.

By turns delightful, hilarious, touching, and enlightening, The Parrot Who Owns Me introduces us to an unforgettable bird and his human companion, whose friendships tells us much about ourselves.

Do you have any books you'd like to add? Please say so in the comments! 


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