Birdmania – Bernd Brunner

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BOOKS: By Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Birdmania – Bernd Brunner
Greystone Books – 288 pp - $29.95

   It’s been a brutal winter across much of the United States, but with the arrival of February and lengthening days, surely we can begin to seek harbingers of Spring.
   One of the best ways is by looking up – into the trees, on the telephone wires, and across the sky – to see what our feathered friends are up to. Migratory birds will gradually start returning north along traditional flyways, and even in the cities, anyone who pays attention will be able to detect when ordinary birdcalls turn into more complex songs of courtship

   “Birdmania,” the new English-language translation of a book by German nonfiction writer Bernd Brunner, extols the captivating beauty of birds in form and song, and traces how, across millennia, birds have enchanted people from Aristotle to Frank Zappa.

   The author opens with a congenial invitation to join the longstanding league of bird enthusiasts and tune in to the abundant delights that bird life provides.  Billions of birds, found in many different guises, are scattered almost everywhere across the globe. Anybody, anywhere, can be a birdwatcher.

   But “Birdmania” goes on to focus particularly on people for whom birds are not just a pastime but a consuming passion – and that passion has been expressed in myriad ways.

   Since the Middle Ages, for example, falconry has been the “sport of kings.”

   Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated with birds’ capacity for flight.

   Bird enthusiasts, including Charles Lucien Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew) and John James Audubon, advanced the study of birds toward a science – ornithology – but did so by shooting massive numbers of birds over time.

   Composers from Strauss to Beethoven to Messiaen have mimicked birdsong in their music.

   British nonsense poet Edward Lear had a particular affinity for parrots. His countryman, naturalist Charles Darwin, overcame an initial aversion to pigeons and formed such an emotional attachment that he declared that pigeons were “the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can be offered to a human being.”

   Gloriously illustrated with vintage bird art, generously endowed with anecdotal detail, and chockablock with scientific discoveries, “Birdmania” is itself a first-rate treat.

Barbara Lloyd McMichael is our ground reporter in South King County, Wash., and author of the syndicated book review column “The Bookmonger.” Her PR for People® Book Review is written exclusively for The Connector.






Barbara McMichael

Barbara Lloyd McMichael is based in the Pacific Northwest and writes about books and culture. She writes a syndicated weekly book review column called  “The Bookmonger” that focuses on Northwest books and authors. Her PR for People® Book Review is written exclusively for The Connector. 

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