Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: The Unfeathered Bird

Cover, The Unfeathered Bird
I recently received the coffee table book, The Unfeathered Bird, by Katrina van Grouw from Princeton University Press. 

Skeleton of a great hornbill from
The Unfeathered Bird 
Ms. van Grouw is the former curator of ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum, a successful artist and a taxidermist. This book, which took over 25 years to create, takes us below the feathers and focuses on the skeleton of the birds. With over 300 illustrations, we can clearly see the anatomical adaptations of various species of birds.

If the book was just a collection of drawings of bird skeletons (and some musculature), it would have been worth a look, but not a purchase. Instead, the beautiful drawings are accompanied by a wealth of information about the physical adaptations of birds that make them so successful. I spent hours, pouring over the text. For example, in the chapter on Cormorants and darters next to a drawing of a great cormorant skeleton: "Perhaps the most striking feature of the cormorant's head anatomy is the extra bone projecting from the rear of the skull. This bone provides additional support for the muscles of the jaw to enable the bird to keep a firm grip on its prey."

Although not an inexpensive book ($49.95 from the publisher), if you are a birder with an interest in how birds do what they do, this is an excellent book. You can find the book cheaper ($32.30) on Amazon. This would also make a great gift for a birding friend who seems to have every bird book in print.

Good birding!

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