Birds and Us: An avian galaxy | Book Review

G Shaheed

2 min read
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Tim Birkhead, 'Birds and Us' cover page | Photo: Special Arrangement

You can get dazzled by the avian galaxy. That is how one can term the book ‘Birds and Us’, written by pre-eminent ornithologist Tim Birkhead.

The astounding work traces the history of birds from ancient cave paintings to the present day. The work that has come out after decades of research and meticulous observations opens up a treasure trove of information related to birds and ornithology, hitherto unknown.

Professor Tim explored the world of birds. It even unearthed materials to prove that philosopher and polymath Aristotle, was attracted by birds and he left accounts of his avian observations. Natural philosopher Pliny also had a heart for birds, the book says.

A chapter in the book titled ‘Birds of Ancient Egypt’ is so enthralling and leaves indelible imprints in our minds. Birds were featured in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Nile river acted as a great source for the sustenance of birds. The birds from different countries in Europe have been portrayed. Different records have been used for the same.

The winged beauties stir our thoughts. Even eons before, men aspired to fly. With the passage of centuries and the dissemination of scientific knowledge, the dreams culminated as Wright Brothers designed aircraft and 20th-century astronauts landed on the Moon.

Professor Tim brings to light eminent birders and ornithologists who left
incredible contributions in the field that later formed the sheet anchor of research and studies.

Now, ornithology is fully developed as birding is around the globe. Eminent wildlife photographers had adventurous treks to remote corners of the world and brought to light rare birds; some of them are zoological oddities.

Professor Tim tells us about the rich contributions made by Willoughby Verner, Jose Labato, John Ray, John Wood, Charles Alexander, Edmond Selous, James Fisher, Oscar Heinrok, Brundson Yapp, Abel Chapman and many others. His analyses will definitely inspire generations to come.

The chapter on Charles Darwin is highly informative and another on bird behaviour, evolution and ecology is astounding as well.

When contacted by, Tim said that he is on Skomer Island near South Wales, observing Guillemoto birds (seabirds). He has been passionately following them for half a century.

Now, birding is popular in the UK and USA. India also plays a dominating role. Birders from Kerala have been going to remote parts of the world like Papua New Guinea.

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