What Is a Bird?: An Exploration of Anatomy, Physiology, Behavior, and Ecology


What Is a Bird?: An Exploration of Anatomy, Physiology, Behavior, and Ecology Authors: , , , , , Editor: Tony D. Williams Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Princeton University Press Pages: 368 Illustrations and other contents: 400 color illustrations Language: English ISBN: 9780691200163 Categories: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A large-format, beautifully illustrated look at the natural history of birds.

There are some 10,000 bird species in existence today, occupying every continent and virtually every habitat on Earth. The variety of bird species is truly astounding, from the tiny bee hummingbird to the large flightless ostrich. Making birds one of the most diverse and successful animal groups on the planet.  What Is a Bird? takes you inside the extraordinary world of birds. It explores all aspects of these remarkable creatures, providing an up-close look at their morphology, unique internal anatomy and physiology, fascinating and varied behavior, and ecology. It features hundreds of color illustrations and draws on a broad range of examples, from the familiar backyard sparrow to the most exotic birds of paradise.

A must-have book for birders and armchair naturalists, What Is a Bird? is a celebration of the rich complexity of bird life. An absorbing and beautifully presented exploration of the natural history of birds.

  • Integrates physiological adaptations with ecology and behavior
  • Features a wealth of color photographs and explanatory figures
  • Uses scanning electron microscope imagery to provide a rare close-up view of structures not normally visible
  • Provides insights into our complex relationship with birds, from our enduring fascination with them to the threats they face and the challenges of conservation
Weight1.95 kg


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"This welcoming compendium is part coffee-table book and part deep dive into the science of ornithology-the team of biologist-authors, edited by biology professor Williams, elucidates all things bird."---Andrea Gawrylewski, Scientific American "This is a book which quite literally tells you everything you wanted to know about birds. . . . The photos are breathtaking, and the way the information is passed on to you, as potentially a beginner from an experienced field worker, is excellent."---John Miles, Birdwatching Magazine "Dipping into the book, you'll discover fascinating facts about a wide range of topics . . . soon you may find yourself reading straight through and learning a great deal about ornithology."---Flora Taylor, American Scientist "This is a sumptuously - one might almost say seductively - produced and illustrated compendium of birds."---Tim Birkhead, British Birds "[A] large, sumptuously illustrated book . . . . it's all here from down to digestion, migration to magnetic sense... everything you need, want to know or love about birds."---Bo Beolens, Fat Birder "This is an impressive work from every standpoint, . . . The pictures alone make it worthwhile!"---David Gascoigne, Travels with Birds "This is a top book."---Chris Packham, Self-Isolating Bird Club "It doesn't really feel like a book - it feels more like a museum. It's as if you walk through the different rooms, see the exhibits, and read a bit about it without feeling any pressure. It feels relaxing and absorbing."---Mihai Andrei, ZME Science

Author Biography

Tony D. Williams is professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University and a fellow of the American Ornithological Society. He is the author of Physiological Adaptations for Breeding in Birds (Princeton) and The Penguins. Scott McWilliams is professor of wildlife ecology and physiology at the University of Rhode Island. Julia A. Clarke is the John A. Wilson Professor in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth MacDougall-Shackleton is professor of biology at Western University in Ontario. Scott MacDougall-Shackleton is chair of the Department of Psychology at Western University in Ontario. Frances Bonier is a field biologist with a research focus on the ways animals respond to diverse challenges, including parasites, urbanization, and climate change. Chad Eliason is a postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.