Synopses & Reviews
Advance Praise for What the Robin Knows
"Jon Young is one of the heroes of the new nature movement, an expansion of traditional environmentalism. With What the Robin Knows, he opens a door to a universe that overlaps modern life, a world lost to most, but found by some—because of teachers like Jon. This elegant book will deepen the kinship between humans and other species. It decodes our common language."
—Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
"Here is the ancestral wisdom passed down from the Apache elder Stalking Wolf to the renowned tracker Tom Brown to Jon Young himself, who in turn passes on to the reader the art of truly listening to the avian soundscape. With all senses more finely tuned, you’ll find yourself more aware of your surroundings, slowing down, and reconnecting with a native intelligence and love of the natural world that lies deep within each of us."
—Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds and Birdsong by the Seasons
"Jon Young knows birds, and you will, too, after reading his marvelous book. You’ll discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors. Every nature lover should read this book."
—Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children and John Muir: My Life with Nature
"What the Robin Knows is a fascinating introduction to nature study beyond putting names on what we see; it’s not just a guide to paying attention outdoors but full of tips on how to do it. It should help us discover the world of nature around us, often glimpsed but too often overlooked. This is less a book to read than one to use, one that will enrich our hours outdoors."
—Thomas R. Dunlap, author of In the Field, Among the Feathered
“This book turns us inside out, opening our minds onto the wider mind of the land itself. It’s a brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters. By waking our animal senses, Jon Young’s work replenishes our humanity.”
—David Abram, author of Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous
"In this naturalist guidebook, Young, a naturalist and teacher, has two objectives: first, by studying 'deep bird language,' we can find out 'what's really going on in the world of birds'; second, we can figure out how to 'access that world through our awareness of deep bird language so that we can see more wildlife.' His third, less direct goal is sharing his 'conviction that understanding the birds really does help us to understand ourselves.' The premise is simple: find a 'sit spot' (a place where you can unobtrusively be part of the world you are observing) and go there frequently daily, if possible. Sit quietly and stay long enough to let the birds readjust to their 'baseline' vocalizing. Recognizing the baseline allows you to notice outlying noises and begin to posit theories about them, although, as Young frequently reminds readers, he is working with largely hypothetical concepts. The book comes with a handy collection of audio files to help listeners identify various songs and alarms of common birds. Though primarily geared toward birders and naturalists rather than lay readers, this passionate instruction manual offers enjoyable anecdotes. Agent: Bonnie Solow." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"This book will enhance our own ability to learn what the nestlings learn."- Birding Business "Donand#8217;t tell lifelong birder Jon Young that robins are boring. He can sit still in his yard, watching and listending for the moment when robins and other birds no longer perceive him as a threat. Then he can begin to hear what the birds say to each other, warning about nearby hawks, cats, or competitors. Youngand#8217;s book will teach you how you, too, can understand birds and their fascinating behaviors." - BirdWatching "A sophisticated guide for amateur bird watchers and a door-opener for newbies." - Kirkus "Though primarily geared toward birders and naturalists rather than lay readers, this passionate instruction manual offers enjoyable anecdotes." - Publishers Weeklyand#12288;
How understanding bird language and behavior can help us to see more wildlife.
Jon Youngs ear- and eye-opening research begins with a simple premise: if you sit quietly, for as long as it takes nearby birds to stop worrying about you, you can begin to hear what they say to one another and understand what it means. As he has done over many years, and now explains for the first time, natures messengers form far-reaching networks of interspecies communication, revealing more about the world around us than any of us could ever see, hear, or sense on our own. Among many other astonishing facts, he reveals • When you take a walk in the woods, the birds that see and hear you pass warnings up to two miles away • Some species trick others by imitating predator and warning calls, driving other birds into hiding so they can feast without competition • Like an army, birds post sentries, which pass on information about intruders. Information so detailed that the birds know whether the intruder is a hawk, a dog, or a cat, and even whether the animal is actively hunting. To skillfully interpret bird language, we draw on a synthesis of skills. Knowledge of the landscape, animal behavior, and seasonal patterns are just a few of the elements that play into the mix, but most people don't know what they're looking for, or how to interpret what they do see. This book gives readers the tools to see more wildlife and understand what they're seeing. By moving in a way that minimizes disturbance, we can observe animals behaving as they do when people aren't present. Knowing that is a key step in understanding the deeper meanings behind bird language, no matter what they are saying. From the "bird plow" to the zone of silence and the contact call to the alarm call, Jon Young guides the reader to an enhanced awareness of the natural world, a clearer understanding of it, and a deeper connection with both animals and ourselves. * An AUDIO COMPONENT will include many helpful examples of bird language.
Companion audio files are available at www.hmhbooks.com/whattherobinknows
A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided in his work and teaching by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds' companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.
Birds are the sentriesand#8212;and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door. Unwitting humans create a zone of disturbance that scatters the wildlife. Respectful humans who heed the birds acquire an awareness that radically changes the dynamic. We are welcome in their habitat. The birds don't fly away. The larger animals don't race off. No longer hapless intruders, we now find, see, and engage the deer, the fox, the red-shouldered hawkand#8212;even the elusive, whispering wren.
Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author's own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves.
andldquo;Jon Young knows birds, and you will too after reading his marvelous book. Youandrsquo;ll discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors. Every nature lover should read this book.andrdquo;andmdash;Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children
and John Muir: My Life with Nature
A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birdsandrsquo; companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs. Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over, and science is finally catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the authorandrsquo;s own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves.
andldquo;Jon Young is one of the heroes of the new nature movement . . . This elegant book will deepen the kinship between humans and other species. It decodes our common language.andrdquo;andmdash;Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
andldquo;A brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters . . . Jon Youngandrsquo;s work replenishes our humanity.andrdquo;andmdash;David Abram, author of Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous
Listen to birds sing as youand#8217;ve never listened before, as the world-renowned birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma takes you on personal journeys of discovery and intrigue. Read stories of wrens and robins, thrushes and thrashers, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and many more bird. Learn how each acquires its songs, how songs vary from bird to bird and place to place, how some birds' singing is especially beautiful or ceaseless or complex, how some do not sing at all, how the often quiet female has the last word, and why.
Hear a baby wren and the authorand#8217;s own daughter babble as each learns its local dialect. Listen to the mockingbird by night and by day and count how many different songs he can sing. Marvel at the exquisite harmony in the duet of a wood thrush as he uses his two voice boxes to accompany himself. Feel the extraordinary energy in the songs just before sunrise as dawnand#8217;s first light sweeps across this singing planet. Hear firsthand the unmistakable evidence that there are not one but two species of marsh wrens and two species of winter wrens in North America. Learn not only to hear but to see birds sing in the form of sonagrams, as these visual images dance across the pages while you listen to the accompanying CD.
Using your trained ears and eyes, you can begin your own journeys of discovery. Listen anew to birds in your backyard and beyond, exploring the singing minds of birds as they tell all that they know. Join Kroodsma not only in identifying but in identifying with singing birds, connecting with natureand#8217;s musicians in a whole new way.
A captivating exploration of the homing instinct in animals, and what it means for human happiness and survival, from the celebrated naturalist and author of Mind of the Raven, Why We Run, and Life Everlasting
Acclaimed scientist and author Bernd Heinrich has returned every year since boyhood to a beloved patch of western Maine woods. What is the biology in humansand#160;of this deep-in-the-bones pull toward a particular place, and how is it related to animal homing?
Heinrich explores the fascinating science chipping away at the mysteries of animal migration:and#160;how geese imprint true visual landscape memory; how scent trails are used by many creatures, from fish to insects to amphibians, to pinpoint their home if they are displaced from it; and how the tiniest of songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances.and#160;Most movingly, Heinrich chronicles the spring return of a pair of sandhill cranes to their home pond in the Alaska tundra. With his trademark and#8220;marvelous, mind-alteringand#8221; prose (Los Angeles Times), he portrays the unmistakable signs of deep psychological emotion in the newly arrived birdsand#8212;and reminds us that to discount our own emotions toward home is to ignore biology itself.
Theand#160;acclaimed scientist/writerand#39;sand#160;captivating encounters withand#160;individual wild birds, yielding andldquo;marvelous, mind-alteringandrdquo; insights and discoveries
About the Author
A retired biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Donald Kroodsma's work on bird song is legendary. His book The Singing Life of Birds won the 2006 John Burroughs Medal Award and the American Birding Association's Robert Ridgway Distinguished Service Award for excellence in publications pertaining to field ornithology. In 2003 the American Ornithologits' Union called him the "reigning authority on the biology of avian vocal behavior." Kroodsma received his Ph.D. at Oregon State University and has traveled all over North and South America researching bird song. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union and the Animal Behavior Society and has published hundreds of academic and popular articles.
Table of Contents
Contents Preface ix
1. BEGINNINGS 1 Hearing and Seeing Bird Sounds 1 The Bewickand#8217;s Wren 10 The American Robin 23 Good Listening, Good Questions, This Book 37
2. HOW SONGS DEVELOP 42 Introduction 42 Learning Songs:Where,When, and from Whom 44 The White-crowned Sparrow 44 The Song Sparrow 55 Borrowed Songs: Mimicry 68 The Northern Mockingbird 68 Songs That Arenand#8217;t Learned 79 Tyrant Flycatchers: Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebe 79 Why Some Species Learn and Others Donand#8217;t 89 The Three-wattled Bellbird 89 The Sedge Wren 102
3. DIALECTS: How and Why Songs Vary from Place to Place 119 The Great Marsh Wren Divide 120 The Black-capped Chickadee 135 The Chestnut-sided Warbler 145 Travels with Towhees, Eastern and Spotted 157 The Tufted Titmouse 165
4. EXTREMES OF MALE SONG 177 Introduction 177 Songbirds without a Song 179 The Blue Jay 179 Songbirds with Especially Complex Songs 191 The Brown Thrasher 191 The Sage Thrasher 202 The Winter Wren 214 Songbirds with Especially Beautiful Songs 225 The Bachmanand#8217;s Sparrow 225 The Wood Thrush 237 The Hermit Thrush 255 Music to Our Ears 267 Songs on the Wing 276 The American Woodcock 276 Tireless Singers 287 The Whip-poor-will 287 The Red-eyed Vireo 297
5. THE HOUR BEFORE THE DAWN 304 The Eastern Wood-Pewee 304 Chipping and Brewerand#8217;s Sparrows 313 The Eastern Bluebird 325
6. SHE ALSO SINGS 335 The Barred Owl 336 The Carolina Wren 346 The Northern Cardinal 357
Appendix I: Bird Sounds on the Compact Disc 366
Appendix II: Techniques 402
Appendix III: Taxonomic List of Species Names 411
Notes and Bibliography 415