Several months ago, while enjoying some “me” time at Barnes and Noble, I happened to see a new book entitled, Birdology. A group of “photographic” hens adorned the cover and my curiosity was piqued. Before I opened the book, these words drew me in closer – “adventures with a pack of hens, a peck of pigeons, cantankerous crows, fierce falcons, hip hop parrots, baby hummingbirds, and one murderously big living dinosaur.” The author was Sy Montgomery. There was just something alluring about that cover and so I began to read the Introduction.
Those first seven pages were filled with words that went straight to my heart. Sy explained that “birdology” was a word she had made up. And a practicing “birdologist” was a person who intentionally appreciates birds. Wow! I stopped reading to take it in. At that moment, I realized that I was a birdologist. I didn’t need a degree in ornithology to have that title. And I imagine that many of you reading this, are also birdologists. Sy went on to write that watching birds “strengthens our souls”. “A birdologist experiences the divinity of creation revealed in the birds.” Sy believes that birds teach us reverence, a virtue that a philosopher once said, “begins in a deep understanding of human limitations.” And, birds certainly show us quite clearly those limitations. Just look into the sky as a bird soars high above, turning this way and that, instinctively using their wings and tails to guide them through the heavens.
I knew I had to meet Sy Montgomery and immediately thought of Bird Paradise’s Parrot Palooza. I wanted to meet Sy and have her share her adventures with our customers. I bought the book and could not put it down until I had read the last page. Birdology is a fascinating read about this author’s adventures with the 150 pound, man-tall, dangerous Queensland cassowary, an intelligent and individualistic group of hens named the Ladies, raptors with powerful instincts, pigeons with an incredible sense of direction, smart and savvy crows, a dancing parrot named “Snowball”, and tiny powerhouses we know as hummingbirds.
Did you know that a hummingbird must consume the greatest amount of food by body weight of any vertebrate? A person as active as a hummingbird would need 155,000 calories a day – and the human’s body temperature would rise to 700 degrees Fahrenheit and ignite! A hummingbird must visit 1500 flowers a day and eat 600 to 700 insects to survive.
Did you know that crows in Japan like to feast on walnuts, which are plentiful there? But, the shells are difficult to open. The crows found a solution: they pluck the nuts from the trees, fly to perch on traffic signals, and when the lights are red, fly down and place the nuts in front of waiting cars. When the light is green, the cars run over them and crack open the shells. When the light turns red again and the cars stop, the crows fly down to safely eat the nuts.
Did you know that pigeons were critical to our military in World War II? They were trained to fly with miniature cameras to take reconnaissance photos of the land over which they passed. They parachuted from airplanes into occupied Europe. A pigeon named Gustav fought strong headwinds to cross the English Channel to deliver the first news of D-Day landings.
These are just a few of the fascinating facts in Birdology.
Sy Montgomery is an award-winning author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter and radio commentator. As a result of her work with man-eating tigers, Sy authored Spell of the Tiger, which was made into a National Geographic television documentary. She also developed and scripted National Geographic’s Mother Bear Man, a tribute to her friend Ben Kilham, who raises and then releases orphaned bear cubs.
Sy Montgomery is a graduate of Syracuse University, a triple major with dual degrees in Magazine Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and in French Language and Literature and in Psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Keene State College, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Franklin Pierce University and also from Southern New Hampshire University.
Birdology books are available now at our on-line store website (under Parrot Books) and in the store.