What It’s Like to be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley, Knopf, 2020, hardcover, 240 pages, $35.
The extended title of this latest book from David Sibley sums it up well: “From flying to nesting, eating to singing — what birds are doing, and why.” In the book, which publishes on April 14, Sibley answers all kinds of questions people have about birds — whether robins hear worms, how long birds live, and more, especially about the birds we see most often. Best of all, the book’s large format — 8.5 by 11 inches — allows Sibley’s 300 new illustrations to stand out.
In the 25-page introduction, Sibley covers a wide range of topics — from feather evolution to migration to the basics of bird feeding. After that, he offers 12 pages of notes about more than 90 species featured in the book. The rest of the book features a portfolio of birds — spread after spread starting with Canada Goose and ending with blackbirds. He writes about familiar backyard birds to seafaring puffins to majestic eagles. Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. (For most species, the primary illustration is reproduced life-sized.)
While the text is aimed at adults — including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes — it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine that any child or teenager with even a passing interest in birds and nature could easily be absorbed by this rich book.
“One of the themes that impressed me throughout my work on this book is that a bird’s experience is far richer, complex, and ‘thoughtful’ than I’d imagined,” Sibley writes in the preface. “And if that was news to me after a lifetime of watching birds, it must be surprising to other people as well.”Originally Published