display | more...

The Unfeathered Bird

by Katrina van Grouw
Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2013

This is a gorgeous and fascinating book. I read about it with my beau and he promptly ordered it. Katrina van Grouw is a former curator of the ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum, a taxidermist, an experienced bird bander, a successful fine artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Art.

So what is the book? A large coffee table book of text and drawings, bird bones, muscles, tendons, feather attachments and skeletons.

Birds aren't mammals. Mammals have 7 cervical vertebrae in their necks, but birds have more... and the pictures show the vertebra that allows that curve in the great blue heron's neck. The bones turn a corner and the vertebra is a different shape from the others. This allows the heron to strike out and catch a fish, a frog.

This book is anatomy, physiology and art. Why are birds shaped the way they are? I took ornithology in college and was fascinated. Owls have asymmetric skulls, the ear canals at different heights, to help them exactly locate where a sound is coming from. The dish shape of the face helps as well. The structure of the light bones and how the feathers attach and how the bones are arranged.... I find it entirely fascinating. It is not written as a textbook but as an exploration of many many different bird groups. And the drawings are gorgeous, all 385.

Highly recommended.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.