Birds & People | By Mark Cocker & David Tipling | 592 pages | Colour Photos | Colour Illustrations | Jonathan Cape | Hardback | Aug 2013 | ISBN: 9780224081740

The Publisher’s View: There are 10,500 species of bird worldwide and wherever they occur people marvel at their glorious colours and their beautiful songs. We also trap and consume birds of every kind. 

Yet birds have not just been good to eat. Their feathers, which keep us warm or adorn our costumes, give birds unique mastery over the heavens. Throughout history their flight has inspired the human imagination so that birds are embedded in our religions, folklore, music and arts. 

Vast in both scope and scale, Birds and People explores and celebrates this relationship and draws upon Mark Cocker’s 40 years of observing and thinking about birds. Part natural history and part cultural study, it describes and maps the entire spectrum of our engagements with birds, drawing in themes of history, literature, art, cuisine, language, lore, politics and the environment. In the end, this is a book as much about us as it is about birds.

Birds and People has been stunningly illustrated by one of Europe’s best wildlife photographers, David Tipling, who has travelled in 39 countries on seven continents to produce a breathtaking and unique collection of photographs. The book is as important for its visual riches as it is for its groundbreaking content.

Birds and People is also exceptional in that the author has solicited contributions from people worldwide. Personal anecdotes and stories have come from more than 650 individuals in 81 different countries. They range from university academics to Mongolian eagle hunters, and from Amerindian shamans to some of the most celebrated writers of our age. The sheer multitude of voices in this global chorus means that Birds and People is both a source book on why we cherish birds and a powerful testament to their importance for all humanity.

What others say:“[…] “This is an unusual bird book in that it is as much about human beings as it is about birds.” So begins Birds & People, and it is certainly true. Birders of all knowledge levels will learn much about birds from this book. But it’s the insight provided into our own species that is truly remarkable. It’s amazing to me just how much we get from birds, be it inspiration, pleasure, or food. Birds & People is an amazing resource, a pleasure to read, and one of the best bird books of the year.” – Grant McCreary (17-12-2013), read the full review at The Birder’s Library

“Not content with his examination of birds and man in Britain (Birds Britannica 2005, see review in Brit. Birds 98: 611–612), Mark Cocker raised his sights and reached out to the whole planet. He has now delivered this even more ambitious survey of the cultural interface of bird families and the primate that presses most upon them… …It is a truly wonderful bargain.” – D. I. M. Wallace – Full Review: 22-09-2013

The Author: Mark Cocker is one of Britain’s foremost writers on nature and contributes regularly to the Guardian and other publications. All of his seven books, including the universally acclaimed Birds Britannica, deal with modern responses to wilderness, whether found in landscape, human societies or in other species. His book, Crow Country, was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008 and won the New Angle Prize for Literature 2009. He lives deep in the Norfolk countryside with his wife Mary Muir and their two daughters.

Fatbirder View: As I am still dipping into this book I recommend the review in British Birds which gives an excellent overview of this monumental book.


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