Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds
by Julie Zickefoose
A lifelong bird-watcher and rehabilitator, Zickefoose shares some of her intimate experiences with various feathered species. There are backyard birds she feeds and sees up close, and quite a few injured or orphaned songbirds she cared for: chickadees, starlings, Carolina wrens, scarlet tanagers, hummingbirds, titmice, phoebes, sparrows, cardinals, and of course bluebirds. There are heartwarming stories of healed, released birds- some of which seemed to revisit her yard and recognize her much later. There are stories that end sadly, as well. Two sobering tales of wild birds who were unreleasable yet seemed to bear captivity well, so she kept and cared for them into old age- a savannah sparrow for fourteen years, an orchard oriole for seventeen. There are observations of large, wilder birds- an injured turkey vulture found roadside, an osprey nest studied through a season, a ruffed grouse that would follow her on walks in the woods, wild hawks that prey on the very songbirds she feeds; least terns and piping plovers whose nesting sites she worked to protect. There are her eloquent longings for the hope of (anyone) ever sighting an ivory-billed woodpecker, and her look at the conflicting views over hunting lisences issued for mourning doves and sandhill cranes. She also discusses how feeding birds in the winter months affects their populations. And last of all the most intimate is a chapter about her lifelong commitment to a pet chestnut-fronted macaw.
Through all the varied essays, the close and thoughtful observations come through with both skillful writings and a beautiful artist\’s touch. I love looking at her detailed sketches and paintings of birds just as much as reading her words. She knows birds so well, and is always seemingly ready to learn more, and share it with those of us who, like me, absorb from the sidelines.
Written before her compilation of the studies on infant bird development, this book contains some of the same material – I instantly recognized the paintings and a few passages – but with broader focus and more circumstantial details, about the people who brought her orphans, for example. It didn\’t feel like repeated material, but added richness.
Rating: 4/5 355 pages, 2012