Reviews: How to Listen to Birds; May 2005; Scientific American Magazine; by Bernd Heinrich, Staff Editors; 3 Page(s)
Just as the colors and patterns of the feathers that birds wear show tremendous variation, so, too, do the songs that they broadcast--but much more so. Songs may be absent, or they may range from a few simple genetically encoded notes endlessly repeated, to virtuosos of variety resulting from copying and learning, and even to seemingly endless improvisation. In The Singing Life of Birds, Donald E. Kroodsma, an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, celebrates the diversity through carefully chosen examples, one for each of the 30 years that he has studied birdsong.
The book is best described by its subtitle, The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong. Kroodsma shares his secrets--solid, practical advice on how to record bird sounds and how to "see" the sounds in sonagrams, visual representations of the recordings of songs. A compact disc that accompanies the text aids readers in this task. He concludes: "There's no longer any mystique to what I have done all these years. Anyone can do this kind of stuff. And anyone should."