Bird Song: A Natural History by Don Stap
(Review by Penny Warren, VA Master Naturalist & President of the Augusta Bird Club)
If for no other reason was I glad to have read Don Stap’s Bird Song than to be aware of Cornell’s Maccaulay Library of Natural Sounds, a collection of approximately 130,000 individual bird song recordings (the largest in the world) and to know there is a second set of the recordings stored in a vault in a limestone cave! I thought that was a fascinating piece of information. And that fact was found on page four … I wondered how many other facts and information would I learn in the remaining 240 pages?!?! The answer … a lot!
If you have any interest in the phenomenon of bird song, determining if it is learned or instinctual, regional dialects, just how many songs does the Brown Thrasher have, why does the Chestnut Warbler have a pre-dawn song and a different one after sunrise and the development of bio-acoustics in ornithology, then grab this book. You can go along with Stap as he follows a world’s leading expert in birdsong, Donald Kroodsma, who pursues birds and their songs in various parts of the US and Central America.
Although the scientific experiments that were done to birds to determine how a bird makes sounds is a very small part of the book, I was not particularly keen reading about these facts. That being said, the majority of the book from the history of studying bird song, the breakthrough of the audio spectograph to specific facts about a variety of birds, is fascinating.
President, Augusta Bird Club
VA Master Naturalist, Headwaters Chapter