The book was originally released in 2002 under the title BirdTalk. I wasn’t able to find much that explained the difference in the newer version to the previous release. The book has 14 chapters that covers: Basic Bird, The Year of the Oriole, Song Assault or Mockery?, Auspices, The Supreme Mocker, From Guns to Birdfeeders, Avitherapy, Literary Birds, North Atlantic Birds, Winter Birds, Spring Birds, Animal Language, Birds of America, and Birds Souls and Aliens.
I personally found the book a bit difficult to follow. The writing style reflects the author’s academic career (he earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota with post-doctoral studies at Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Cornell, the Folger Library, Breadloaf, Villa Vergilliana in Italy and the American Academy in Rome). The book mirrored what I imagined taking an advanced college course discussing the correlation between bird vocalizations and communication. There are several examples using musical notes that help describe what the vocalization might sound like. Unless you are versed in reading music, this was a part that is difficult to imagine.
The author cites examples from anecdotes, essays and literature etc throughout the book. He does provides personal experiences and explains at time what he believed the birds were ‘saying’ to him. I found this fascinating but did not truly understand how to interpret messages from our feathered friends. The book is not a guide or ‘how to’ type book for anyone interested to converse with birds. Rather it feels like an academic study course that would be better to sit and hear lectures in person rather than reading. Even though I am an avid lover of birds, this book just wasn’t for me. For those readers who wish to dive further into birdtalk from a more academic literature style study, then this book might be for you.
~review by Amber Barnes
Author: Alan Powers
Bear & Company, 2023
pp. 192, $18.00