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Thread subject: Book review (and recommendation):
Name Date Message
Shelley 07/20/10 08:24 am Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches - And Other Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask, by Mike O'Connor.

I am not quite finished yet but I can say with complete honesty, this guy is so funny, that I think I have laughed out loud on just about every page. In 1983 he opened one of the very first stores catering solely to birders, not at all uncommon now, but back then, quite a revolutionary concept. He also wrote an advice column in his local newspaper (in Cape Cod) about birds. This book is a compilation of his columns. Here is just a tiny excerpt from his introduction:

"Over the years we have had lots of really good questions, as well as some questions that made me worry. In this book I've tried to select questions that the average backyard bird watcher might want to know....It has always surprised me that so many people can take a joyful hobby like feeding birds and turn it into a source of stress. The next section is dedicated to those people. Here I discuss topics such as dealing with larger, more aggressive birds, plus everybody's favourite topic, squirrels. I've also added a few questions about things that are actually problems for birds, like big glass windows. Then there are the mystery birds, the birds that look like twins, like the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Or the birds that people want to know about even though they shouldn't, such as the Aflac duck. I told you some questions worried me."

[for non-North Americans, Aflac is an insurance company which uses a talking duck in its tv ads. It is silly but quite funny]

Anyhow, I am really enjoying this book. Here is what Audubon Magazine wrote in its endorsement, on the back of the book: "While O'Connor's detailed responses are full of ornithological facts, it's their humour and irreverence that make the book so entertaining."

Oh, one more note. His response to the question about osprey actually revealed a fact that I did not know: that there is only one species of osprey, worldwide. While there are many species of hummingbirds, say, wherever they are in the world, osprey are all the same species. I chuckled when he was explaining the osprey's *fourth toe*:

"Ospreys have an unusual fourth toe that can move front-to-back to help them grab fish. In addition to that weird fourth toe, they also have rough scales on their feet to help hold onto slippery fish. Once airborne with the fish, the Osprey will often maneuver the fish so that its head faces forward. It is believed that having the fish facing forward makes it more aerodynamic for flying, plus it allows the fish to enjoy the view."


Nancy L 07/20/10 10:10 am That last sentence was cute!
martyc35 07/20/10 01:01 pm One last look is a charitable take on the fish's purview. Obviously, it can't be watching its whole life pass before its eyes.

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Tom Throwe
Last modified: Sun March 7, 2010