90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Life As A Bird

What it’s like to be a bird.  We’ll get inside the minds and senses of the creatures that fly.

The Green Violetear  (Mdf/Wikipedia)

The Green Violetear (Mdf/Wikipedia)

You know what it’s like to be you.  What’s it like to be a bird?  To fly.  To soar through the sky.  To live with the senses of a bird?  A robin, that can hear the moving bristles of a worm underground?  An eagle on the wing?  A great owl swooping toward its prey?  Philosophers debate what we can know of another person, let alone birds.

Ornithologist Tim Birkhead says we can know a lot.  About how birds see, hear, touch, taste, smell.  Maybe even how they feel.  We’d like to know, how they feel in full flight.  To fly like a bird.

This hour, On Point:  We’re stretching our wings and asking what it’s like to be a bird.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Tim Birkhead, professor of behavior and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His new book is Bird Sense: What It’s Like To Be A Bird.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “The extremes of animal behavior can be a source of endless astonishment. Books have been written about insect sex. The antics of dogs and cats are sometimes hard to believe. And birds, those amazing birds: They build elaborate nests, learn lyrical songs, migrate impossibly long distances. But “Gifts of the Crow,” by John N. Marzluff and Tony Angell, includes a description of one behavior that even Aesop never imagined.”

The Guardian “The sight of two diminutive parrots sitting side by side and nibbling each other’s necks is enough of a cliche that we barely give it a second thought. Lovebirds, natives of Africa and Madagascar, are so named because their proximity and mutual preening resemble human affection. But what do lovebirds feel when they behave in that way? Indeed, do they feel anything at all?”

Canberra Times “With this book Tim Birkhead has confirmed himself as one of the best English language writers on the science of ornithology in the world today – at least, he’s my favourite. As professor of behavioural ecology at Sheffield University he is clearly qualified to write about his topic, but equally importantly he has an exquisite gift for telling stories of science that laypeople can be enthralled by. His previous book, The Wisdom of Birds, was a history of the study of birds from Aristotle to the present day, and was a remarkable achievement.”

Video: The Wisdom of Birds

Check out this book “trailer” from Tim Birkhead.

Excerpt

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 3, 2015
A group of community activists in San Francisco, CA celebrate that city's February 2014 embrace of the Fair Chance Campaign's efforts to alter background checks on employment and housing for convicted criminals. (Courtesy All of Us Or None)

Is it time to stop asking job applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime? We’ll look at employment and unemployment after prison.

Mar 3, 2015
This July 21, 2014 photo shows strawberry banana chia breakfast smoothie in Concord, N.H. Breakfast habits in America are changing, leading to dramatic shifts in business strategy. (AP)

Food guidelines are changing. So is what we eat for breakfast. Cereal? Out of favor. Eggs? Maybe OK. And all kinds of new menus. We’ll look at Americans and breakfast.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 2, 2015
This image provided by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows an artists rendering on how a gamma ray burst occurs with a massive star collapsing and creating a black hole and beaming out focused and deadly light and radiation bursts. Astronomers and space telescopes in April 2013 saw the biggest and brightest cosmic explosion ever witnessed, a large gamma ray burst. (AP)

A super-massive black hole, newly discovered, deep in space. We’ll peer into the realm of the black hole.

 
Mar 2, 2015
In this Tuesday, March 4, 2014 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, right, speaks before the screening of the television documentary "Israel: The Royal Tour" at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. (AP)

On the eve of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress, we look at the US-Israel falling out over Iran nuclear negotiations.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Want To Listen To Lead Belly? Here’s Where To Start
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Loved our show on Lead Belly, but unsure on where you should start to listen? Jeff Place of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage offers his best picks for a beginning Lead Belly listener.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: February 27, 2015
Friday, Feb 27, 2015

We won’t lead you into a debate on the color of #TheDress (it’s blue and black, end of debate), but we do wonder about the blurring lines between so-called Internet culture and general popular culture. Also, it’s snowing in Boston. Still.

More »
Comment
 
Two Congressmen Weigh In On DHS Funding
Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland present their views on the ongoing Congressional budget fight over Department of Homeland Security funding. (Spoiler: They do not agree on a resolution of the crisis).

More »
1 Comment