For decades, people have written off birds as largely witless, driven by instinct and capable of only the simplest mental processes. But this just isn't true.
In fact, according to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence and social smarts. They make complex navigational decisions, sing in regional accents, and use tools. They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They kiss to console one another. They share. They give gifts. They teach. They blackmail their parents. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve ... And they do it all with brains so tiny each would fit inside a walnut.
In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. As she travels around the world, bringing together the latest science from lab and field, she reveals the intelligent bird behaviour that we can see in our own backyards, at birdfeeders, in parks, in city streets, and in country skies, if only we care to look. And in doing so, she reveals what a bird's intelligence may have to say about our own.
Elegantly blending science and travelogue, Ackerman’s extraordinary story provides a new appreciation for the talents of birds and what birds can reveal about our changing world. Incredibly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds richly celebrates the triumphs of these surprising creatures.
‘Jennifer Ackerman’s book is ... very important. Her engaging survey of recent findings about bird acumen delivers so many surprises it ends up a revelation.’
Tim Low, author of Where Song Began
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‘I love birds; always have. The only thing better than love is love plus deep appreciation. The Genius of Birds is a journey of deep appreciation for the beautiful geniuses all around us, in our gardens, sharing our air, and sharing more of our minds than we might have expected.’
Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: what animals think and feel
‘Delightful, revolutionary, and illuminated by the clean, curious gaze of an intelligent seeker, The Genius of Birds is fueled by awe and always, its close cousin, deep respect for the condition of life. It’s a book that demands a moral consideration of the world.’
Rick Bass, author of The Ninemile Wolves and For A Little While
‘[A] gloriously provocative and highly entertaining book. Jennifer Ackerman provides a masterly survey of research in the last two decades that has produced a revolution in our understanding of bird cognition. The Genius of Birds [is] important not only for what it says about birds, but also about the human ingenuity entailed in unraveling the mysteries of the avian brain. It is at once a book of knowledge but also a work of wonder and an affirmation of the astonishing complexity of our world.’
Wall Street Journal
‘Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.’
‘A lyrical testimony to the wonders of avian intelligence.’
‘Ackerman offers plenty of interesting tidbits and backs them up with the relevant history or science, using footnotes to avoid cluttering the text with anything that might slow a reader down. This is one of those terrific books that makes a scientific topic fun without dumbing it down.’
Washington Independent Review of Books
‘As fun as it is revelatory … Time and again, one is struck by these creatures’ ability to think, learn and communicate.‘
William Yeoman, The Weekend West
‘Wide-ranging and engrossing … makes it clear that crows — and birds generally — have a lot more going on upstairs than we ever knew.’
Andrew Fuhrmann, Weekend Australian
‘Engaging, and full of wonder at the often unsuspected mental feats birds are capable of.’
‘The Genius of Birds offers an often awe inspiring tour … made the more affecting by the elegance and beauty of [Ackerman's] language … a fascinating book.’
James Bradley, Sydney Morning Herald