|"Papa can you hear me?"|
"I am a bird detective," Stutchbury says, "revealing the behind-the-scenes details of the social lives of birds to understand why females cheat on their mates, what makes a male attractive, why some pairs divorce, how birds claim a territory...and what all this means not only for our avian friends, but for us as well."
Here's an example of the latter, as pointed up in a Science News review of her book: "At sewage-treatment plants in England, fearthworms reveling in sludge pick up traces of estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are passed along to starlings. In a surprise twist, the hormones give males unusually fine singing powers, possibly misleading females into selecting hormone-laden males as prime mates."
|"The chestnut-sided warbler cheerfully greeted me at the forest edge with a raspy pleased pleased pleased to meet cha."|
"Birdsong is music to our ears," says Stutchbury, "but to birds the love song is also a sophisticated weapon to keep competitors at bay.... In many birds the voice of the male is even more revealing to a female than his colors. Songbirds are well-known for their impressive dawn chorus, a symphony of song that often begins before daybreak and dwindles to a whisper after sunrise. The best time for a female to judge a male's energy level and stamina is after a period of fasting, in other words, at daybreak. Singing is energetically expensive and females judge male quality simply by listening to the quantity and quality of song."
Below, a rose-breasted grosbeak does his thing. This is one of the birds our author studied in the PA forest.
Ornithologists' delight: Tim Dee, the author of A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds has spent 40 years devoted to avian pursuits (10 more than Stutchbury!). Middleton Evans' beautiful photographic collection Rhapsody in Blue: A Celebration of North American Water Birds reflects nearly 40 trips to view and capture these magnificent creatures on film. Picking up on Stuchbury's theme of the complex communications in bird vocalizations is What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by naturalist and tracking expert Jon Young.