Birds can be traced to prehistoric times, but their modern role as backyard companions is sweetly uncovered in The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds. Writer and editor John Yow cites marvelous tidbits from Audubon, Arthur Cleveland Bent, Rachel Carson and other noted ornithologists and scientists, but gives equal weight to what he sees from his own vegetable patch or front porch in the Georgia countryside. When he raises his binoculars or turns the pages of a reference book in these short, illustrated essays, Yow lets his gentle ruminations and finely observed truths lull the reader toward a quiet adventure into the "ordinary" birds around them. Broken out by season, each essay highlights some behavior or habit of birds so commonis there anyone not familiar with the cardinal, the blue jay or chimney swift?they become new again.
Yow explores the pileated woodpecker's role in the propagation of the magnolia tree, how the crimson cardinal got its name and the history of robins on the American dinner table. Often humble, droll and gently political with soft sarcasm pointed at policies that have decimated some species' entire habitat, Yow is the ultimate gentleman birder, highlighting the omnipresent glory and understated miracle of these feathered friends.