The Life of Birds


Approach this newly updated version of The Life of Birds with caution, for it may do funny things to you. Perhaps, like me, you'll find it impossible not to hear the voice of the author, Sir David Attenborough, reciting the text in his iconic measured tone. Each time I sat down and opened the book it was almost as if the man himself, who has probably done more than any other to bring nature into our living rooms, had been transported to sit by my side like an old friend and read out loud.

Whisper his name and it is akin to invoking the human equivalent of Everest, such are the heights of the esteem in which he is held. It is now a quarter of a century since The Life of Birds was first shown on our television screens and brought the incredible array of colour, sound and behaviour from our feathered friends worldwide to life.

Think of this volume as a collection of short avian stories, each distinctive and offering an opportunity to learn a little more using certain species as examples to understand the wider behaviour of birds. My only gripe is that I would have preferred the species names to be capitalised.

This new release trumpets the '64 colour pages of nature photography', though for me it is not the images that capture the imagination in this volume but Attenborough's words, or rather the passion and curiosity embedded like subliminal messaging in each paragraph.

Of course, we know now, with the benefit of hindsight, that Attenborough is perhaps the finest nature storyteller of our age and the stories he weaves in The Life of Birds are some of the most wondrous that he has told. The juxtaposition of the familiar with the exotic and the plain with the fancy throughout the book transport the humble reader across continents and back to their suburban garden, all the while offering insight into birds in an unparalleled way.

The Life of Birds isn't a book for birders, scientists or photographers – it's a book for all of us. It helps us to share in the wonder and understand a little more about the amazing lives of the creatures that fly free all around us. It should be compulsory reading in every school in every corner of our planet. Take the plunge on this book and invite Sir David into your house – you won't be disappointed


Written by: Alan Tilmouth