Ground breaking book reveals 'what it's like to be a bird'

An ornithologist and academic at the University of Sheffield is receiving rave reviews for his latest wildlife book called Bird Sense, What It's Like to Be a Bird.

Featuring a chapter focussing on each sense - including vision, smell, touch, taste, and magnetic sense - Bird Sense, by Professor Tim Birkhead of the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, expands our understanding of bird behaviour, how we study them and makes many discoveries along the way.

During his three year research for the book, Professor Birkhead travelled the world visiting leading sensory biologists. In New Zealand he studied the Kiwi and its amazing sense of touch and smell as well as the flightless Kakapo, and in Ecuador he witnessed cave dwelling Oilbirds, one of only a few species of birds that echolocate like bats.

Professor Birkhead said: "Back in the 1970s when I was doing my PhD studying the behaviour of Guillemots on Skomer Island, I witnessed something totally unexpected. A bird I was watching recognised its partner at a distance of several hundred metres. All guillemots look pretty much the same to me, even at close range. But knowing that guillemots could recognise their mate when they were little more than a blob flying over the sea made me realise that a Guillemots' senses were very different from our own.

"Over the forty years that I have been studying birds, I have seen more and more instances that made me realise that we have consistently underestimated the senses of birds, I was continually surprised as I did the research for the book."

The ground breaking book – which is also aimed a popular audience – is the first to investigate how birds interpret the world or the way the behaviour of birds is shaped by their senses. The book also features illustrations by world renowned artist Katrina van Grouw.

"I hope readers of the book will see that science is fun and that birds are amazing," added Professor Birkhead. "Bird Sense is my fourth popular science book. I love undergraduate teaching, and writing popular science is an extension of that.

"I also hope that readers will have better understanding of what it is like to be a bird, and will think about birds differently after reading the book. I hope that Bird Sense will make researchers in other areas of biology, such as behavioural ecology, see the value of knowing about the sensory system."

Bird Sense, What It's Like to Be a Bird is published by Bloomsbury and is available now priced at £16.99

Notes for Editors: With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad.

For more information on the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences visit: Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

For more information on Bird Sense, What It's Like To Be A Bird visit:
Bird Sense


For further information please contact: Paul Mannion, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2229851 or email P.F.Mannion@sheffield.ac.uk