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A book that may change forever the way you think about birds

Unimpressed by pigeons? Hey, they can find their way home from 2,500 miles away

PORTLAND, Maine — For anyone who loves to read, there are few better experiences than getting utterly and happily lost in a fascinating book. Such are the pleasures that await the reader who opens “What It’s Like To Be a Bird,” the latest book from David Sibley, America’s most popular contemporary bird author and illustrator.

Virtually every page contains fun and illuminating and sometimes mindboggling insights into, as the subtitle says, what birds are doing and why.

Consider what Sibley has to tell us about a few species found in Maine. Did you know, for instance, that loons need a long runway of open water to get airborne? “They can become trapped,” Sibley writes, “if they land on a pond that is too small.” In the water, loons are diving machines. “They can stay underwater for up to fifteen minutes, and travel more than two hundred feet deep.”

How about cormorants? Were you aware that they are “the most efficient marine predators in the world, catching more fish per unit of effort, on average, than any other animal”?

And are you generally unimpressed by pigeons? Perhaps your opinion of them will rise upon learning that, with their superb navigational skills, they “can find their way back to their home loft from at least 2,500 miles away.”

I could go on—did you know that Peregrine falcons can attain speeds of more than 240 miles per hour?—but let me step aside and bring Sibley into the spotlight. Watch our conversation with him and you, too, will have a new appreciation for what it’s like to be a bird.

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