A New Book on Oak-Allied Birds Celebrates Connections Between Tree Host and their Winged Tenants

In The Birds in the Oaks columnist Jack Gedney profiles over 15 bird species and their co-evolution with the oaks where they live, feed, and visit.

ON-SALE: October 15, 2024

BERKELEY, CALIF. — Until you reach some 8,000 feet of elevation, nearly every woodland or forest in California includes oaks in at least a supporting capacity, and often as the dominant trees of an ecosystem. Wherever in the world they may be found, these iconic keystone species are host to a colorful cast of birds who roost, perch, and forage among their twisted limbs and furrowed bark, making them a veritable MVP for the ecologies where they live. Bird columnist Jack Gedney, explores the intricate connections between them and the pageant of feathered fliers that find succor among and beneath their branches in his charming new book The Birds in the Oaks: Secret Voices of the Western Woods (on sale October 15, 2024). 

With this volume Gedney, the author of The Private Lives of Public Birds (Heyday, 2022), returns with an awe-inspiring portrait of the magnanimous oaks who welcome the dependence of an array of avian species, forming lines of connection that Gedney calls readers to witness and appreciate. Divided into four sections, The Birds in the Oaks profiles the nuthatches and woodpeckers who feed and roost in the oaks, the towhees and quail burrowing beneath their branches and creeping along their trunks, the chickadees and warblers who stop by for the occasional layover from the firs and pines, and the further-flung sojourners that can occasionally be glimpsed amidst their canopies. To know the oak woodland birds, Gedney argues, it is invaluable to know the trees around which their feeding, mating, and sheltering habits have evolved.

“In our human world of purchasable conveniences of invisible origin, it’s easy to slip into thinking that we operate apart, that we have no vital need for the rest of nature,” says Gedney, “It is much more difficult to make that error with birds, especially this troop of birds that together live upon the oaks, these trees like friendly giants, bearing kinglets on one arm and vireos on another, with creepers, woodpeckers, and nuthatches clinging to their chest and back.”

Through his insightful, lyrical observations of some 15 oak-allied bird species, Gedney reveals how the subtle and variable traits of these trees — from the deciduous oaks to the valley variety — invite the attentions and tenancies of different species. And he reveals, with wonder and details drawn from natural history, how these flora and avifauna have evolved ever more closely together over the course of millennia.

Media Contact:
Kalie Caetano
Marketing & Publicity Director, Heyday

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Jack Gedney is a bird columnist who writes “On the Wing” for the Marin Independent Journal and co-owner of a wild bird feeding and nature shop in Novato, California. He is the author of a compact field guide to the trees of the San Francisco Bay Area and The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live (Heyday, 2022). His most recent book is The Birds in the Oaks: Secret Voices of the Western Woods, illustrated by Angelina Gedney.

Angelina Gedney is an artist based in Davis, California.