I am a birder by default. When I was a child, I used to sit on the couch in our living room and watch the birds in my mother's birdfeeder, rooting for the Juncos to beat out the Blue Jay bullies. My brothers were both birders, so I learned early the different sparrows and finches that came to feed. Now, I constantly find myself looking at the sky, especially this past month. My section of the world has become part of the Snowy Owl irruption, and every day, on my way to work, I pass by a field where a lone white owl is hanging out on top of a telephone pole. Rumor has it that the Snowy Owls will be heading home soon, so I am going to miss looking for him (or her?! I don't know the difference in sexes when it comes to snowy owls).
The Thing With Feathers by Noah Strycker is a perfect read for anyone interested in what we have in common with our feathered friends. Every chapter is devoted to a specific bird and its similarities to humans. For example, in one chapter, we learn the fears of penguins while in another chapter we learn the reverence of magpies (it is believed that magpies actually hold "funerals" for their deceased peers). Chapters really act as individual essays and don't have to be read in order, so I went right to the section that discussed the Snowy Owl, where I learned about our new white feathered friends.
Still, I found other chapters just as intriguing. My favorite chapter turned out to be about Strycker's exploration of albatross love. Of course, as an English professor, the albatross will always be first and foremost, a literary allusion, but Strycker's references to the albatross's life (which is spent mostly in the air) were fascinating.
The Thing With Feathers is Strycker's second book, and even if you don't consider yourself a birder, you will enjoy this collection. Afterall, who hasn't wondered about the fast pace of the hummingbird or how turkey buzzards can stomach the carcass of roadkill?
For more information about Strycker, see his website. For more information about our local Snowy Owl irruption, take a look at the blog hosted by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York.
In many ways, I am more of a reader than a writer. This page will serve as a home for my informal reviews of what I've been reading.