Brain Gymnastics: This is the name of one of the chapters Birds do it that way Jennifer Ackerman, New York physicist and biologist. This chapter is about powerbirds, of which there are nineteen species, such as the gray-necked powerbird that “have the reputation of being an extreme character within the family of extreme birds.”
Researchers in Australia have found that a male powerbird can court a woman by providing her with a gazebo containing 1,300 bones and shells. But it can be done even more frantically: his cousin Satin Blue Powerbird fills his ‘stage’ with bright pieces of glass, beer cans, broken jewelry, and straw. Arbors are not nests, they are ‘enchanting theaters, stages where male power birds perform the background of song and dance, trying to please their female audience.’
Ackerman’s book, verse title New look at birds talking, working, playing, raising and thinking, Less hysterical than the birds described. The reader really needs to do mental gymnastics to keep a little careful of all those creatures that occur mainly in Australia as well as elsewhere. The gold-crowned gardener bird, the dexter weaver and the mask weaver, the gold-carpet woodpecker, the ornate fairy, the ruffus mockingbird, the orange-breasted sunbird and the spot-breasted antelope fall into each other, each in a trance, twisting and twisting.
Those who are more or less accustomed to reading ‘classic bird books’ will be amazed at every page of Ackerman’s book: never knowing that nest building is related to ‘neural networks and the reward system’.
‘There’s a lot we don’t know,’ Ackerman rightly quotes a fellow ornithologist. By this he seems to justify to himself that his book is the most bizarre bird book. Distinguish this with the bird monograph Sea eagle By Nintendo Paintema, a biologist and science journalist: A book about a bird, the largest bird of prey in our country that has made spectacular returns for fifteen years. Highlights 2020: Twenty breeding pairs and 22-year-olds.
How is that possible? In the last century, the sea eagle (Holietus albicilla) Still destroyed, now every nature lover embraces the golden brown bird with its imposed bill and white tail.
That is the paradox described by Paintema in this classic bird book. Classic in the sense of his method of work: After a personal description of sea eagles above the author’s garden in Alaska, he returned to the Netherlands and saw the amazing growth of the people here. First the birds sleep, and then they come to breed. What is the secret force behind this success in a country full of nature and birds, overpopulated and increasingly backward? She analyzes that process in a scientific way.
Areas such as IJsseldelta and Weerribben such as Biesbosch and Oostvaardersplassen are important for population growth. The white-tailed eagle can be called the “iconic bird” of the new swamp, the beavers, the hardy new nature. In this sense, Paintema’s book is a book about contemporary natural development in which ideas collide.
A low point of this whole development was that Ostwardsplassen was not connected to other natural reserves, and a fence was built around it, because Secretary of State Henk Flecker (CDA) ‘came to reform nature policy with a blunt ax’, as Paintema says.
Everyone knows the consequences, including the fence: the big crossers died, and there was unrest among nature lovers. According to Nature Management Professor Frank Bernadette and Birds of Pray expert Rob Pijlsma, this section appears to be ‘interesting nature’ or ‘real nature’, he cites Paintema in detail.
Then there’s the mighty sea eagle that rises above all the parties in Paintoma’s book. She observes sea eagles from Alaska to Amsterdam Waterliding Tuinen, a living testimony to the fact that ‘nature can suddenly come up with surprises in strange moments’.
Both books come as a great surprise to the reader: whether it’s about a powerboard weighing 100 grams or a sea eagle weighing almost 5 kg, you are always so beautiful around you in the words of Nintendo Paintema. It also expresses concern about the future of nature, a theme that Ackerman has completely absent. His research area covers untreated fauna of Australia.
Two biologists working in completely different ways, from classical science to the most imaginative, each time showing a different aspect of the indescribable bird world.
A version of this article was published in the NRC on the morning of July 2, 2021.