Audubon Magazine

Audubon Magazine

Alisa Opar
Published: 12/13/2012

Duckworth Overlook, 208 pages, $22 (Buy it)

In 1554, after the death of England’s Lady Jane Grey—executed for treason when Mary I, or “Bloody Mary,” assumed the throne—ravens at the Tower of London supposedly pecked the eyes out of her severed head. In City of Ravens, historian Boria Sax debunks this and other deliciously macabre legends, suggesting that the birds were actually first brought to the Tower in the 19th century as pets, not corpse eaters. Ever since, the black birds have resided at the Tower. The author delves into the true history and cultural importance of these massive corvids.—Anna Sanders

 

The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds on the Southeastern Shore

By John Yow

University of North Carolina Press, 256 pages, $26 (Buy it)

John Yow’s The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal masquerades as a glorified guidebook, with 28 bird profiles spanning five seasons. Yet through enchanting descriptions and personal anecdotes, Yow makes characters—the villainous ruddy turnstone, the “drunken” reddish egret—out of his subjects, carefully highlighting each species’ subtleties.—Michele Berger

 

NATURE/ADVENTURE

 

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind

By Richard Fortey

Alfred A. Knopf, 332 pages, $28.95 (Buy it)

What do you do at a horseshoe crab orgy, when the ancient creatures throng beaches to reproduce in the spring? Richard Fortey takes notes. And so begins this beautiful book about horseshoe crabs and other species that have endured mass extinctions, sea-level changes, ice ages, and other hurdles to survive to the present day.—Justin Nobel

 

 

Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World

By Stefan Bechtel

Beacon Press, 254 pages, $26.95 (Buy it)

Personal salvation through taxidermy—this was the bizarre philosophy that carried a God-fearing, gun-toting Midwestern farm boy named William Temple Hornaday into the most colorful career in American conservation history. Shoot, stuff, and exhibit the mortal remains of slaughtered game for the public’s admiration and education. Hornaday shot the first crocodile recorded in Florida. He killed a tiger in India, and in Borneo ended up with 43 orangutans—shot, skinned, and suitably resurrected Later in life a passion drove him to save the remnants of American wildlife. Hornaday’s blemishes were mostly a reflection of his violent time, his undoubted virtues the product of a conflicted but unique man.—Frank Graham Jr.

 

Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific

By Tim Flannery

Atlantic Monthly Press, 256 pages, $25 (Buy it)

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