Beaks, Bones And Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior by Roger LedererBeaks, Bones And Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior by Roger Lederer

Beaks, Bones And Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior

byRoger Lederer

Hardcover | June 22, 2016

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“Reveals the strange and wondrous adaptations birds rely on to get by.” —National Audubon Society

When we see a bird flying from branch to branch happily chirping, it is easy to imagine they lead a simple life of freedom, flight, and feathers. What we don’t see is the arduous, life-threatening challenges they face at every moment. Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs guides the reader through the myriad, and often almost miraculous, things that birds do every day to merely stay alive. Like the goldfinch, which manages extreme weather changes by doubling the density of its plumage in winter. Or urban birds, which navigate traffic through a keen understanding of posted speed limits. In engaging and accessible prose, Roger Lederer shares how and why birds use their sensory abilities to see ultraviolet, find food without seeing it, fly thousands of miles without stopping, change their songs in noisy cities, navigate by smell, and much more.
Dr. Roger Lederer is a professor of biological sciences at California State University, Chico. He has published papers and books on ecology, science education, and ornithology. Dr. Lederer has served as a consultant to governments, schools, and organizations like BBC, National Geographic, National Public Radio, National Canadian Televi...
Title:Beaks, Bones And Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their BehaviorFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:282 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.13 inShipping dimensions:9 × 6 × 1.13 inPublished:June 22, 2016Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604696486

ISBN - 13:9781604696486


Read from the Book

IntroductionIt’s Tough To Be a BirdLook outside your window, take a walk, go fishing, watch a video, or do anything else that allows you to see birds in the wild. You may get the impression that birds are blithely going about their business, happily chirping, singing, and scratching among the leaves, flitting from branch to branch, clambering up a tree trunk, or soaring through the sky barely moving a feather. Looks like an easy life. Cultural symbols like the dove representing peace, the bluebird signifying happiness, and the robin as the harbinger of spring reinforce the idea that birds have not a care in the world. But we don’t often see the arduous challenges a bird faces every moment of every day.Of the many hours I have spent in the field, watching birds flying, feeding, resting, and nesting, I was most affected by those moments when I saw birds searching for food in blowing snow, sitting on the surface of an ocean fighting threatening waves, and flying in serious winds. I wondered: how do birds make it from hatching to adulthood and from year to year after that?Birds have to be on task all the time. They have to use their senses to find food, migrate, withstand the weather, avoid predators, compete with each other and alien species, and face a myriad of other trials. This book is about the abilities, adaptations, and behaviors birds possess and employ to survive from one day to the next. It is only the most physiologically, anatomically, and behaviorally well-tuned birds who successfully meet these challenges and go on to the most important goal in their life, reproduction.Accurate figures for mortality and longevity of wild birds are nearly impossible to determine, but there are trends. Only about 50 percent of White-eyed Vireos in the southeastern United States return to their breeding grounds from their winter quarters, and merely 36 percent of Downy Woodpeckers, resident all year throughout much of North America, survive from one year to the next. Songbird adults have a 40–60 percent survival rate from year to year. Of their young, perhaps only 10 percent make it from egg to adulthood the following year. This means that a two-year-old songbird is a one out of twenty miracle. This short life expectancy is a result of the many dangers birds face. And while bigger birds have a lower mortality rate than small birds, they all face hazards every day. Unlike humans, birds don’t seem to get closer to their demise as they age; instead of slowly declining, most birds, after reaching maturity, have an equal chance of dying suddenly at all times of their precarious life. Sick or injured birds are rarely seen in the wild as illness or injury puts them at immediate risk of death, so you only see healthy birds on your bird walks.Evolution has been at work on birds for more than 200 million years, shaping them into adept and adroit organisms. But birds today not only face the challenges that natural selection throws at them, but an entirely new set of obstacles, thanks to us. Things started to change for birds shortly after humans came on the scene. Early humans incorporated birds into their diet. Then agriculture came along, usurping habitat but also inadvertently providing food for birds. As civilization matured, bird feathers, bills, and bones became adornments for human culture; later, birds were domesticated for meat or eggs. Bird hunting became more efficient with the advent of guns and as civilization spread, habitat shrank. Massive destruction of wildlife of all sorts was common, including the commercial hunting of many bird species for food and feathers, until the passage of the Lacy Act in the United States in 1900—the first federal law protecting wildlife. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 further protected migratory birds. These laws made a difference in North America, but many bird species live in or migrate through areas of the world that don’t pay much attention to the needs of birds or their protection. Today about 1400 of the world’s 10,000 bird species are threatened with extinction.We have destroyed habitats and replaced them with cities, highways, tall windowed buildings, transmission towers and lines, microwave antennas, wind turbines, and lights—along with millions of cats. Birds have always contracted diseases, but humans have altered the environment and allowed pathogens to spread more quickly. A solar plant in the Mojave Desert concentrates the sun’s rays so strongly that birds are incinerated if they happen to fly through it. Birds have evolved rather amazing and often unique adaptations to the environment, but as the world changed, those adaptations became increasingly less effective. Birds never evolved defenses against windows or lights, buildings or towers, or the large number of our feline friends. Climate change has caused changes in bird migration patterns, but what the long-term effect will be is unknown.With ornithological science as the background, this book will explore the common and unusual ways birds put into operation their physical and behavioral adaptations. What everyday challenges does a bird face and how does it survive? Seeing ultraviolet, finding food without seeing or touching it, flying thousands of miles nonstop, maneuvering deftly and speedily through thick forests, navigating by smell, surviving extremes of weather, sharing community resources, and changing their songs in noisy cities are just some of the amazing things birds do to simply make it to tomorrow and cope with the challenges of a changing planet.

Editorial Reviews

“This is a wonderful book about birds for birders who would like to understand them better.” —Dennis Paulson, author of Shorebirds of North America   “A joyride through the secret lives of birds. Drawing on centuries of bird research and observation, Roger Lederer brings readers an engaging exploration of bird survival strategies and their evolutionary origins." —James R. Karr, professor emeritus, University of Washington “It might not seem so, but “it’s tough to be a bird,” Roger J. Lederer writes. . . . Lederer convincingly makes the case in his accessible and detail-rich survey of bird behavior. His examples are vivid and plentiful. . . . Lederer, an emeritus professor of biology, has an easy way with zoological concepts and the patient air of a born teacher.” —Washington Post “An exceptional overview of the life, adaptations, and impressive skill sets of wild birds. . . . Highly recommended for all interested in natural history and the impact of humans on the natural world.” —Library Journal Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs an “admirable undertaking. . . rich source of information.” —Choice Magazine “A trove of information for true bird nerds.” —Bird Watcher’s Digest  “Birds have conquered every environment on Earth—including our hearts. This book reminds us that our fates are intertwined with theirs.” —Gary Langham, chief scientist of the National Audubon Society “Professor Lederer gives us an ornithologist's ‘inside’ view of birds—and shows that birds are even more intricate, diverse, and downright astonishing than most of us imagine.” —Warren F. Cooke, chairman of The American Bird Conservancy   “Gracefully mingles [Lederer’s] own experiences around the world with what is known about birds (and what still remains a mystery).” —Chico Enterprise-Record