A Verve-and-Vim-Filled Volume On California’s Common Birds Debuts this Spring

Jack Gedney’s The Private Lives of Public Birds will forever change the way you see the crowd at the suet feeder.

BERKELEY, CALIF—Columnist, nature shop owner, and birder Jack Gedney brings readers delightful, intimate meditations on our winged neighbors in The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live (on-sale May 17). 

Your eyes and ears will spring open after leafing through this literarily-inflected guide to 15 common—and extraordinary—birds of California, which identifies, with charming observation, the sights and sounds of the ambling and stalwart California towhee, the fearsome red-tailed hawk, the boisterous blue scrub-jay, and others. 

“I’m a serious backyard birder with a library of over a hundred bird books. Gedney’s is now one of my top favorites,” says Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan

Illustrated with exquisite line drawings by artist Anna Kuś Park, this slim, verve-and-vim-filled volume invites you to slow down, look up, and listen closely to the sibilant squeaks and quiet song of the feathered denizens nesting in our backyards and soaring over our seashores. Blending poetry and science, Gedney meditates on how these birds relate to one another, to the land, and to us.

“My agenda is for greater daily human happiness through birds,” says Gedney; “If you have passed your years without that sense of home among the birds of California, then today can be the day toward which your life has been ripening.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORJack Gedney studied literature and natural history at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of a compact field guide to the trees of the San Francisco Bay Area, and co–owner of a wild bird feeding and nature shop in Novato, California. He writes on all things birds in his regular On the Wing column in the Marin Independent Journal.

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Praise for The Private Lives of Public Birds

“I’m a serious backyard birder with a library of over a hundred bird books. Gedney’s is now one of my top favorites. His lyrical and deeply felt insights, in particular about bird language, enable us to see that common birds are anything but and deserve not just our love but our gratitude.”

AMY TAN, author of The Joy Luck Club

“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.”

KEITH HANSEN, author of Hansen’s Field Guide to the Birds of the Sierra Nevada

“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.”

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

“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 Californian’s Guide to the Birds Among Us