Bird Songs from Around the World (Raincoast/Chronicle, 368 pages) is so much more than just a book, I almost don’t know where to begin.

In the first place, it’s quite heavy for its size. This is only in part due the 368 color pages featuring glorious botanical paintings of birds. It’s also due the mechanical apparatus that is part of the binding of the book and that makes the sound possible. And what sound! The audio itself was supplied by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and so you know, for instance, that when you hear the distinctive chirp of the Stout-Billed Cinclode from South America or the haunting rattle of Asia’s Greater Goldenback, you can be pretty sure you’ve got the real deal.

Strictly speaking, Bird Songs from Around the World is probably slightly less useful than its predecessor, 2006’s Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song. Where that book could, presumably, be used as something of a field guide (as in, “Honey, was that an Ocellated Turkey we saw today?” “I dunno, dear. Let’s listen to the book and find out.”) you are less likely to find yourself in a situation where you need to know exactly what a bird from Africa and one from Australia sound like on the same day. Still, “need” is seldom the bottom line when it comes to books. Bird Songs from Around the World is well written and illustrated, it’s interesting and — because of that crazy voice box — it’s even kinda fun.

News Reporter

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