I have been so excited about getting a review copy of this book for months! At fist I was bummed because I knew others were getting it but then realized it went to an old address. When I opened the box, I fell in love right away! This is the coolest bird book that I've seen come down the pike in the last year. It's called The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw, a former curator of the ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum.
I think this is my favorite image in the book, it's a gentoo penguin jumping out of the water, its body reflected on the surface. The bird is missing feathers and skin and you can see the muscle structure as the bird is in motion. This book initially seems a macabre nature book, but the book teaches you so much about avian anatomy and structure.
This freaky little image is a budgerigar without feathers, skin or muscles drawn by the author. Look at how long the neck is! So that is what is under your cute little budgie if you share a home with one. And you learn some very fun tidbits of information that are written in an accessible way, like:
" The skull of parrots is unique in having the orbits of the eyes completely encircled by bone. This gives the skull greater strength to withstand the crushing action of the jaws."
This is an illustration of a buzzard (similar to red-tailed hawks in North America) and you can see the muscles and the wing and tail feathers--fascinating and surprising how it all works together to get the bird in a thermals. This book will make you rethink birding structure when you see them in the wild.
As if accipiters didn't look freaky enough, here's a Eurasian sparrowhawk without feathers killing a Eurasian collared dove. I can see this book having appeal to people who aren't as interested in birds because it is just so strange. The freaky illustrations can appeal to the Edward Gorey crowd, the anatomy can appeal to the ornithologists and the easy to understand text appeal to the casual birder. If you are looking for a unique, artistic book...and perhaps a few ideas for an interesting tattoo--this book is it. I highly recommend it, it's worth the hard cover price.
I've said this before and I'll say it again, Princeton University Press is coming out the coolest titles these days.