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Books About Smart Birds
Ziggy Blum’s picks
I have an inordinate fondness for all things feathered, and share my house with eleven roommates of the psittacine (parrot) persuasion, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that when I scan the shelves for reading material, books about birds catch my eye. This passion for avians is something I share with George Brown, the book-buyer of the Kiva (who also happens to be one of the owners), which accounts for there being plenty of books on the Kiva’s shelves which appeal to this interest.
These are some of the titles I chose.
The Mind of the Raven
by Bernd Heinrich, first published in hardcover in 1999
Ravens and crows are popular birds, and it’s no wonder. They’re beautiful and devastatingly intelligent. Crows, comfortable in the metropolis, are easy and fun to observe as they negotiate traffic, drop nuts to crack on the pavement, mob predators, and otherwise demonstrate their smarts in town.
Ravens–larger, more solitary, much more at home in the wilderness, and possibly even cleverer than their city cousins–are harder for a townie to get to know. Bernd Heinrich has spent many years observing ravens in the wild and in captivity, and Mind of the Raven is the next best thing to doing so yourself. Interesting and scholarly, this book is a rich and fascinating glimpse into the complicated world of raven behavior and wild nature.
by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, 2011
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
The Parrot Who Owns Me
Her tone is light and engaging, but the book is informative and thought-provoking, and the story of her bond with Tiko–who builds nests for her each breeding season–is touching. She also speaks engagingly of birds in general–their habits, habitats, physiology–and nature and nature conservancy as a whole.
If you are looking for a gift for anyone who is contemplating the addition of a parrot as a family member, The Parrot Who Owns Me and Alex & Me are highly recommended reading–I guarantee they will open the eyes of the uninitiated to the amount of care, interaction, and attention a parrot demands and deserves, and the rewards the human in the relationship may receive in return.
Alex & Me
Like many people, I was an avid fan of Alex, an African Grey parrot owned and taught by Dr. Irene Pepperberg. He was a sort of avian ambassador, if not a superstar. He fascinated researchers in animal intelligence, human psychology, and linguistics, not to mention a lot of us who simply like birds and believe them to be smarter than was generally recognized. He delighted journalists and television hosts with what appeared to be his particular brand of wry humor. In this tribute to her long collaboration with Alex, who died prematurely at the age of 31, Dr. Pepperberg tells us about their journey together, and how he demonstrated his ability not only to learn and understand human language but to use it to “mess with [their] heads.”
Now that the demands of yard and garden have mellowed with the onset of chilly weather, it’s a great time to cozy up with a natural history book (and maybe a feathered friend or two–on your shoulder, or outside in the bird feeder).