Book review: Nest The Art of Birds

'Nest The Art of Birds' is a delightful, must-read.
'Nest The Art of Birds' is a delightful, must-read. Contributed

BOOK: Nest The Art of Birds

AUTHOR: Janine Burke

PUBLISHER: Allen & Unwin Aust

RRP: $32.99


AUSTRALIAN art historian and amateur naturalist Dr Janine Burke has won numerous writing awards for her fictional and biographical works.

She invites us into that largely unseen and undiscovered art in the natural world; intricate birds' nests.

Whether it is a satin bowerbird busily arranging his boudoir with blue objects or the wagtail's tiny mud nest, ringed with cobwebs and leaves, they are indeed works of art.

Already documented in antiquity, the first comprehensive works on the subject were the Goulds' impeccable illustrations where birds and their nests were intimately viewed for the first time.

"Immaculately attentive imagery, woven with exquisite skill", is how Gould described the white-shafted fantail's home.

The golden-headed cisticolas of Africa, veritable seamstresses as they thread a long grass shoot (first making a neat hole in the stem), literally sew their nests together.

David Attenborough called them "the most skilled tailors in the whole of the bird world".

Dr Burke herself is a skilful weaver as she intersperses stories and poems to highlight her main subject.

She cites Virginia Woolf, Karen Blixen, Shelley, Wordsworth, Robert Frost and many others as avid bird watchers, evidenced in their poems and stories.

Nearer home, she delights in the extraordinary nests made by the blue wren, the mudlark and the honeyeaters.

"Feathering your nest" takes on a whole new meaning in Dr Burke's delightful book.

Topics:  birds book review

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