The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live

The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live
Paper Over Board, 5.5 x 8.5, 224 pages.
ISBN: 9781597145749.

By Jack Gedney

Jack Gedney’s studies of birds provide resonant, affirming answers to the questions: Who is this bird? In what way is it beautiful? Why does it matter? Masterfully linking an abundance of poetic references with up-to-date biological science, Gedney shares his devotion to everyday Western birds in fifteen essays. Each essay illuminates the life of a single species and its relationship to humans, and how these species can help us understand birds in general. A dedicated birdwatcher and teacher, Gedney finds wonder not only in the speed and glistening beauty of the Anna’s hummingbird, but also in her nest building. He acclaims the turkey vulture’s and red-tailed hawk’s roles in our ecosystem, and he venerates the inimitable California scrub jay’s work planting acorns. Knowing that we hear birds much more often than we see them, Gedney offers his expert’s ear to help us not only identify bird songs and calls but also understand what the birds are saying. The crowd at the suet feeder will never look quite the same again. Join Gedney in the enchanted world of these not–so–ordinary birds, each enlivened by a hand-drawn portrait by artist Anna Kus Park.



“I’m a serious backyard birder with a library of over a hundred bird books. Gedney’s is now one of my top favorites." AMY TAN, author of The Joy Luck Club
“In this magical study, Gedney gathers 15 essays on 15 unique species of western birds. Bird-watchers, nature lovers, and anyone curious about avian life will find joy in this blend of poetry and biological writing, complete with illustrations of each bird by Anna Kus Park.” Alta
"Gedney’s essays shed light on bird communication in a way that will engage readers everywhere; his book has the potential to create a bird lover out of anyone who picks it up." Library Journal
“I love that this book encourages us to look more closely at what is right under our noses. […] It has the power to bring joy to our daily lives if we take the time to slow down, look around, and listen a little more.” Seattle Book Review
“The Private Lives of Public Birds is an affectionate love song to our most familiar feathered neighbors. Grounded in science but watered by the heart of a poet, this intimate and personal look at the lives of the birds we see every day invites us to slow down and look again.” JOHN MUIR LAWS, author of The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds
“Gedney has opened wide a portal for any and all, novice or expert, to enter a world of immediate avian wonder. With the help of ornithologists and poets and authors from the past—be they William Leon Dawson, Henry David Thoreau or creation stories of the Western Mono—Gedney gathers together nuggets of Goldfinch and treasures in feathers to be enjoyed whether we are gazing out our office window, stuck in traffic, or actively seeking.” KEITH HANSEN, author of Hansen’s Field Guide to the Birds of the Sierra Nevada
“What an eloquent reminder that we don’t need to seek rarities to experience the wonder of birds. Jack Gedney’s book mingles science, story, and poetry, inviting readers to become immersed in the world of close-to-home birdlife—not to just look at birds, but to look again with attention, stillness, study, and curiosity. This book awakens all of our senses, making every step outside the door an opportunity for joy and belonging.” LYANDA LYNN HAUPT, author of Rooted and Mozart’s Starling
“What fun to follow Jack’s curiosity as he bikes and birds and reads, bringing together dozens of human voices to deepen his essays, from Miwok and Yokut stories, to a range of writers such as Li Bai, Kurt Vonnegut, Mary Austin, Bernd Heinrich, and even Joanna Newson.” ALLEN FISH, director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
“I can't remember the last time I started smiling during a preface, couldn't put the book down, continued smiling through chapter one (on the brown scratcher), two (the blue squawker), and beyond. What a delight! This book is filled with such wonderful perspectives on the supposedly ordinary birds all around us.” DONALD KROODSMA, author of The Singing Life of Birds
"With lyrical prose and joy-filled stories, this wise and generous book invites us to see better, listen better, and to celebrate the miracles happening around us in every yard and garden. If birds could read, they would say, This book gets it exactly right." CHARLES HOOD, author of A Salad Only the Devil Would Eat
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Category Nature

About the Author

Jack Gedney

Jack Gedney

Jack Gedneyis also the author of The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live and a compact field guide to the trees of the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2018, he has written a column on local birds, “On the Wing,” for the Marin Independent Journal. Jack currently co-owns a wild bird feeding and nature shop in Novato, California.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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