David Sibley on Being a Bird
I believe you began the project that became this new book and the full title and subtitle. I should tell people is. What's it like to be a bird from flying to nesting eating to singing what birds are doing? And why believe you began as a project for children at first? So tell us a little about the book. Yeah so the idea. It was a slow evolution of the idea. It started as an idea for a kids book. almost twenty years ago and and that initially the idea was to do a guide to backyard. Birds a guy to familiar birds. Ask a field. Guide simplified for kids. And I want it to be I wanted it to be big and colorful and eyecatching and those are the things that I really remember enjoying about bird books when I was a kid and and also to include a lot of information about what the birds are doing Because kids are I find kids are. They're interested in the names of the birds somewhat but more interested in what sort of what the birds superpowers are in a way. What what are the amazing things that the birds are actually doing and as I started researching those things I learned so much I was. I kept running across information in the literature that I didn't know that I things I thought I knew a lot about birds but a lot of it turned out to be wrong and the truth is even more amazing so I just as I did the research on those that aspect of the book that then became the entire book. I just that was so fascinating and so such a wealth of interesting information that I decided that would be the whole book so a guide to familiar birds. It is in the sense that I've illustrated most of the the most familiar species in North America and written their names next to them. But it's not a guy to identification. It's just Election of exciting facts about birds. Well and that's what made me happy. S Navy about spend time with the book. These recent weeks is despite all your great expertise. You acknowledge that you're still curious and still learning and still asking why. And that's just so important for those of us who are lay people you know relatively speaking You know Burgers to be and so forth you know you're encouraging us to keep asking and learning. I think it was Ken Kaufmann. I think who said to me once in an interview that he hopes the on never goes away and the curiosity never goes away and I think that's so important and that comes through in this book of yours. Yeah I think I mean that's what keeps me excited about studying birds every day. There's always more to learn and come up with new questions all the time and and the this surprising things that I learned in this in the research for this book just I I get so excited about working on the book I would come. Go show up at dinner every night and talk about what I learned today. You won't believe this right right. Ripley's believe it or not from David civil so even to allay. I knows I said such as myself a couple of things about birds that are you know distinctive right off most. Obviously they have feathers and especially that they're capable of flight. But I learned a lot of new things in your book about a bird's body design. That might be so obvious as their wings but nevertheless support their ability to fly so things I didn't know like laying eggs figures into their ability to fly. Tell us some of those things. 'cause that was kind of mind-blowing so yeah there. So a lot of the the adaptations of birds shape in their their anatomy is has developed for flight so their feathers. Obviously but they're very strict aim lined and the best way to to design a flying machine is to have the the center of mass the the most of the weight being very compact and suspended below the wings So and I think I have a line in the book that if you build you make a paper airplane and then try taping penny to that plane in different places the only place you can put a penny and have the plane still fly properly is centered. Yes under the wings And that's the way bird's body is designed. They're all of their muscles are in a very compact mass in the center in their body. Very compact central body mass and the wings are all feathers and slender bones. The legs are just slender bones. The muscles that control those are part of the central body mass and then the head is a lightweight lightweight skull and the the bill. All birds have a bill instead of jaws and teeth because the bill is really lightweight and Getting rid of heavy jaws and teeth and Allows them to move all that or eliminate weight from the extremities of the body so the head is really lightweight and without teeth then they have to have another way to chew their food so they generally swallow their food whole and they have really muscular stomach again in the center of their body and they swallow sand and gravel to act as teeth so when the stomach muscles squeeze it grinds the food up with this gravel and that crushes the food and essentially choose it. But that's all happening in the center of the body instead of teeth way out at the front and so the the female the reason or that she's evolved to bear to lay. Eggs is so that she is able to not be heavy with eggs with these big eggs inside her. During that long time periods each breeding season. She can move about once she puts them in the safety of the NASCAR the hoax for safety of the nest. Yeah Yeah So. That's one of the advantages of eggs. Is that instead of carrying? Young and most birds lay multiple eggs and raise Two or four eight young each in each nesting and so those eggs they take about twenty four hours to develop inside the female's body then she lays the egg in the nest and she's back to her normal weight and Able to fly and gather food and And then she just sits on the eggs to keep them warm for a couple of weeks and they hatch and then it's then lots of food is delivered and hopefully there if they if they're not discovered by a Predator that the young fledge it all takes three weeks or four weeks for most birds.