Public libraries are invaluable sources of information. Borrowing books saves money and provides the opportunity for readers to “test-drive” those that they might like to purchase. I have a treasured reference collection of illustrated books. When I borrowed David Allen Sibley’s What It’s Like to be a Bird​, I knew in an instant that a copy of this beautiful and fascinating book would be added to my personal collection in the near future.

As an avid bird watcher I have often wondered about their lives. Where do they sleep? How long do they live? What do their songs mean? Sibley’s book answers all my bird-related questions including those about flying, nesting, eating and singing. The book features full-colour, life-sized illustrations of birds of North America, including many that can be found on Mayne Island. Northern flickers, ravens, downy and hairy woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, chestnut-backed chickadees and other Mayne Island birds are included in the book’s 355 illustrations. It is a perfect book for all ages, as the text is easily understandable and the artwork is colourful and delightful.

Interesting information in this book is plentiful. Some of the bird facts I have learned:

  • A single chickadee can store up to 1000 seeds a day
  • Pileated woodpeckers have long tongues with barbed and sticky tips, which they use to extract food from trees.
  • Red-breasted nuthatches use their beaks to paint the entrance to their nest cavities with sap, deterring squirrels and other birds from entering.
  • Birds have specialized ear feathers that protect their hearing against noise turbulence when flying.
Pileated Woodpecker Photo: Mick Thompson

David Sibley is the well-known author-illustrator of the ​Sibley Bird ​and ​Tree Guides​. ​What It’s Like to be a Bird​ is his newest book, published in 2020. Sibley hopes that the book will: “inspire the reader to be a more engaged and active observer of the natural world and lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of birds and our shared planet.” This book has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of bird watching, as I have gained new knowledge of the behaviour and complexities of birds.

Categories: Book Reviews

1 Comment

Brenda Mac · January 3, 2021 at 10:14 pm

Great review of David Sibley’s book and more importantly why it is interesting to a bird watcher.
Thank you.

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