The Wisdom of Birds

The Wisdom of BirdsTitle: The Wisdom of Birds
Author: Tim Birkhead
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
410 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7475-9256-3
Publication date: October 2008

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‘The Wisdom of Birds’ was voted ‘Best Bird Book of Year by The British Trust for Ornithology and British Birds (2009)

Praise for The Wisdom of Birds:

“There are plenty of writers who have an understanding of natural science, and there are plenty of scientists who try to write. But there are precious few with the combined abilities of Professor Tim Birkhead. His instinct for the stories within ornithology and his gift for making technical matters accessible and simple are rare talents indeed.”Mark Cocker, naturalist and author of Birds Britannica

“A fascinating, intriguing and enlightening book”Bill Oddie

The Wisdom of Birds is a gem—a beautifully researched, written, and illustrated account of avian biology, in the context of 2500 years of research on birds. Tim Birkhead reckons that the great 17th century naturalist John Ray is the pivotal figure in the history of ornithology and, with this book, he has me convinced. Ray’s 1667 treatise on Ornithology, with Francis Willughby, brought together virtually all that was known about birds and laid the foundation for both the science of ornithology and a scientific approach to natural history. Ray’s book in the context of the myriad discoveries before and since makes ‘The Wisdom of Birds’ both unique and fascinating, the superb illustrations reproduced from original historical works are an added bonus.’ – Bob Montgomerie, Ornithologist, Queen’s University, Canada.

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Inside Book


  1. From folklore to facts: John Ray and ornithology
  2. Seeing and not believing: from egg to chick
  3. Preparation for life: instinct and intelligence
  4. Disappearing fantasies: the emergence of migration
  5. Illuminating discoveries: light and the breeding cycle
  6. The novelty of field work: the discovery of territory
  7. Choristers of the groves: birdsong
  8. A delicate balance: sex
  9. Darwin in denial: infidelity
  10. A degenerate life corrupts: reproduction and longevity
  11. Postscript

Chapter 4
Chapter 7

Inside Book