HomeArtsChristmas gift guide - books for the loved ones with inquiring minds

Christmas gift guide – books for the loved ones with inquiring minds

Mike Unwin – ‘Around the World in 80 Birds’

Around the World in 80 Days
Credit: Laurence King Publishing

Photographer and natural history writer Mike Unwin’s ‘Around the World in 80 Birds’ is the perfect book for the ornithologist in the family. Unwin’s words are accompanied on every page by detailed, accurate and colourful illustrations by Ryuto Miyake which bring vividly to life every species. Some single or even double page illustrations reveal just how central the aesthetics are to the appeal of the book. It is the perfect tome to place on the coffee table, or on the bookcase with other reference books for browsing. The author guides readers on a journey across the whole world, covering seven key geographical areas. Starting in Africa, Unwin then heads to Eurasia, North America, South and Central America, South and Southeast Asia, Australasia and finally the oceans and islands. Along the way, readers receive short (never more than two pages), factual and engaging descriptions of eighty species of bird.

You’ll find some favourites, such as the Blue-footed Booby. This native of the Galapagos Islands is, the description tells us, “unique among its family in using its feet for sexual display”. The piece is a potted history of the Blue-footed Booby’s mating and breeding habits. Closer to home, we meet the Swift and the Robin. The haunting pastoral sight of swifts flying low over fields and feeding on the wing is explained. Just as Britain’s “unofficial national bird”, the Robin, a relatively tame bird that has become an emblem of winter and Christmas, also receives a chapter.

The species synonymous with summer, the Swallow, also gains a mention as a species that aided our understanding of migration. Other sections of the book turn to larger and more exotic species. We meet the Australian Southern Cassowary that weighs around 70 kilogrammes and stands taller than most people. There’s the beautiful Chinese Golden Pheasant that has a scarlet body, blue and green wings and a golden cape. You’ll also find the Bald Eagle, the emblem of the United States, as well as the staple of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners – the humble Turkey. Other books in the series, by different authors, include ‘Around the World in 80 Trees’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Plants’. Buy Mike Unwin’s ‘Around the World in 80 Birds‘.

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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