During the sheltering-in-place period of late, I’ve had more time to notice birds and like the book title, I have wondered what birds are doing and why. With simple and cleanly rendered paintings, sketches and diagrams (all by the author), the book, What It’s Like To Be a Bird, is structured in part with an introduction and portfolio of birds. Not intended to be read cover to cover, this book is designed for browsing between the introduction and the birds, much like birds themselves flitting from tree branch to flower and back again.
The introduction, similar to an annotated index, runs nearly thirty pages with broad topics including feathers, coloration, senses such as sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and balance, physiology, migration, food and foraging, survival and social behavior. Smaller sections within the topics are presented in bullet point format. Each point, artistically marked with a bird motif, quickly draws your attention with a brief and fascinating bit of information. Clicking a link (in the digital version) within the short entry leads to a correlated essay in either the portfolio of birds or another section called “Birds in This Book”.
While browsing in the ‘Food and Foraging’ section, this entry caught my interest. It says, “Adult chickadees make special efforts to seek out spiders to feed to their young, for the nutrient taurine.” Who knew the amino acid taurine, added to some energy drinks, was also desired by chickadees? The link within the entry led me to ‘Chickadees’ in the Portfolio of Birds section. Here I learned that this particular bird can store up to a thousand seeds in a day or 80,000 in a season. Called scatter hoarding, they hide food in any crevice where it will fit. That’s amazing! Even further, the bird remembers where each item is stored.