The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat by William Young is a collection of essays on 99 different types of birds. These easy-to-read stories are short but well researched. They include a mix of folklore, science, and even some conservation information.
This book is definitely a lighter read but that doesn’t take any of the fun away from it. In fact, the short, concise essays are a reprieve from deep, technical, and often disheartening books on conservation and habitat destruction I’ve been currently reading.
Flip to any chapter at random and you can enjoy a quick overview on a family of birds and what makes them interesting. I happened to flip to #29, the Fairy-Wren and was rewarded with information on these energetic, brightly-colored birds; birds completely unrelated to the wrens we are familiar with in North America. In this essay, Young discusses “furgling”, which basically means that fairy-wrens are as promiscuous as they are beautiful.
The cultural and historical ties to birds are well-noted, especially in literature. Some examples include William Cullen Bryant’s poem about Bobolinks, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, and poems by William Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson to name but a few.
The Fascination of Birds doesn’t really bring any crucial insight into birding or conservation and it is a bit silly and “too light” at times. But the book provides a quick and enjoyable read about how interesting and diverse birds are.
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