During this period of enforced isolation, I am sure that we all have time to take stock of our surroundings, and take pleasure in our homes, and to examine and re-examine our treasures. And so it is, that I have been poring through my books anew, rediscovering treasured texts, re-informing myself, dallying over especially well-written pieces, and refreshing my knowledge. Forgotten details are studied as though seen for the first time.
There are so many tremendously good books on my shelves, and they are
without question a great source of joy to me every day, and they are frequently consulted and re-consulted, read and re-read. It is very difficult to rank authors of ornithological and natural history texts in the way that one is able to allocate preference to fiction writers, but I am quite sure that Tim Birkhead, an esteemed favourite son of England, is my first choice.
I am presenting below, with a brief synopsis of each one, the books by this author that I own.
Sperm Competition and Sexual Selection
This is the very first Birkhead book that I purchased, way back in June 1999. It provides a comprehensive overview of the competition between gametes for successful fertilization, which lies at the heart of the evolutionary process. Many different organisms are covered. As you might imagine, the section on avian reproduction has been consulted most frequently!
The Red Canary
This book won the Consul Cremer prize. It is popular science at its very best - a perfect blend of exactness and superb entertainment - Mark Cocker. For naturalist and non-naturalist alike, a great read.
The Survival Factor
I know Mike Birkhead only as a producer of wildlife documentaries, mainly for the BBC, and as far as I know he is not related to Tim Birkhead. Based on the Darwinian principles of natural selection, this book examines the strategies and adaptations employed by different creatures to assure their own existence and to perpetuate their species.
The Wisdom of Birds
If you have never heard of John Ray, this is an essential read. If you have heard of John Ray, this is an essential read! A tremendous discussion of the concepts of avian territoriality, clutch size, mating strategies, and much more, with reference to many of the seminal figures of ornithology.
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology
Comprehensive review of every aspect of the life of birds. Written in easy to understand language, suitable for students at any level, yet unerringly delivering the technical knowledge needed to become proficient in the study of birds.
Ten Thousand Birds - Ornithology Since Darwin
A first class review not only of the recent history of ornithology but also of the key players involved. No other book of this type comes anywhere near this one in its breadth of coverage and depth of scholarship. Ten Thousand Birds is in a class by itself and an outstanding read. Ian Newton
The Most Perfect Thing - Inside and Outside a Bird's Egg
Birkhead has written the perfect book about the perfect thing, where his breadth of knowledge of avian reproduction is exhibited to the fullest, and his enthusiasm is no less on display. For bird lover and general reader alike a compelling volume.
A detailed and comprehensive monograph of Black-billed and Yellow-billed Magpies. Essential reading for anyone interesting in the life histories of these frequently misunderstood and often maligned corvids.
Tim Birkhead is that rare combination of scientist and writer, where both skills are brought together without one dominating the other. He is able to write clearly, concisely, and interestingly, while not watering down one scintilla of the often complex ideas presented, in a manner that everyone can read, and in such a fashion that one simultaneously acquires knowledge and derives great satisfaction from the written word.