Why are the eggs of the marsh wren deep brown, the winter wren's nearly white, and the gray catbird's a brilliant blue? And what in the DNA of a penduline tit makes the male weave a domed nest of fibers and the female line it with feathers, while the bird-of-paradise male builds no nest at all, and his bower-bird counterpart constructs an elaborate dwelling? These are typical questions that Bernd Heinrich pursues in the engaging style we've come to expect from him - supplemented here with his own stunning photographs and original watercolors. One of the world's great naturalists and nature writers, Heinrich shows us how the sensual beauty of birds can open our eyes to a hidden evolutionary process. Nesting, as Heinrich explores it here, encompasses what fascinates us most about birds - from their delightful songs and spectacular displays to their varied eggs and colorful plumage; from their sex roles and mating rituals to nest parasitism, infanticide, and predation. What moves birds to mate and parent their young in so many different ways is what interests Heinrich - and his insights into the nesting behavior of birds has more than a little to say about our own.
Bernd Heinrich is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont. He has written several memoirs of his life in science and nature, including One Man's Owl, and Ravens in Winter. Bumblebee Economics was twice a nominee for the American Book Award in Science, and A Year in the Maine Woods won the 1995 Rutstrum Authors' Award for Literary Excellence.