What are birds? Are they really today’s dinosaurs as against us mammals and how does their evolution compare with that of humans and their lifestyle, parenting, tools, travelling and intelligence – better or worse? Was it they who first discovered music and then taught us – and do they too have an aesthetic sense and a joy in play? What about the art of birds and – well, how many poems or proverbs about birds do you know? This beautifully argued and illustrated book gives some startling answers. It contends, most unusually, that it is time for us to revise the widespread assumption, most distinctly expressed in Harari’s magnificent best-selling Sapiens and Homo dues, that we humans are the Lords of the Earth. Rather, Callender argues, it is for humans, not after all so unlike birds, to share the guardianship of our precious world with this wonderful parallel species. We have our gifts too, but birds have the advantage of many more millions of years and climate changes here in which to learn and survive as highly intelligent and generous guardians of our precious earth.
David Campbell Callender is a pen name of the anthropologist Ruth Finnegan.