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Birds of the Photo Ark by Noah Strycker and Joel Sartore‎ (Photography), National Geographic, US $30.00, Pp 240, March 2018, ISBN 978-1426218989

Birds are endowed with gorgeous colors, beautiful songs, the gift of flight and the physical stamina to migrate thousands of miles, birds are nature’s showstoppers. Birds appeal to an obsessive vein of human nature. Birds appear among the first human expressions of art. Cave paintings in France, India, and Tennessee show a myriad of winged creatures alongside large animals, hunters, and other scenes. Nobody knows exactly what motivated those early illustrators, but their images remind us that the allure of birds is nothing new.

In Birds of the Photo Ark, Noah Strycker says that most of the time birds sort themselves neatly into species, each with its distinctive habits and appearance. One of the first lessons any birder learns is finding birds is often a matter of visiting the right locations. Birding becomes a treasure-hunting, using clues to track down an elusive quarry. When we watch birds closely, birds reveal a host of traits we usually reserve for ourselves. They show expressions, moods, and personalities. Some are shy, others are curious, and a few just look hungry.

The photography of uniquely beautiful birds in Birds of the Photo Ark represents National Geographic’s Photo Ark, a major initiative and lifelong project by photographer Joel Sartore to make portraits of world’s endangered species. He wants to convey his powerful message through his photographs: know these birds so that you save them. Sartore is visiting the zoos and wildlife rescue centers all over the world with the aim to make portraits of 12,000 species. He has already made portraits of more than 6,000 species. Birds of the Photo Ark showcases some of these birds.

Noah Strycker says that humans have much in common with birds. About 60 percent of all birds’ DNA overlap with our own. As humans, we share so much of the avian genome that studying birds can literally help us learn about ourselves, from immunity from disease to cellular mechanics. The 40 percent of the genome that we don’t share accounts for all our dazzling differences. Millions of years of evolution have given them some brilliant advantages, like an ultralight skeleton that, in many species, weighs less than their feathers. A bird’s lungs are vastly more efficient than ours, and the digestive system is streamlined to the point of totally eliminating a bladder. Birds have sharp vision, good hearing, and quick reflexes for life on the wing. By comparison, humans are downright sluggish.

Noah Strycker says that, symbolically, birds represent peace, prosperity, love, hope, independence, and freedom – as reflected in religious texts and in the national birds adopted by many countries. Birds remind us that we are all connected and that everything we do has an impact. We marvel at the migrants that fly thousands of miles each year, crossing hemispheres to find a home. From a bird’s-eye view, we might gain a new perspective of our shared world. By paying attention to birds, we can find inspiration.

Birds of the Photo Ark is a unique collection of rare and beautiful birds in the world. More importantly, this book is packed with knowledge about birds. Noah Strycker provides a lot of fascinating and insightful information about how birds see, hear, fly, hunt and more. This beautifully manufactured book is one of the best coffee table books published in 2018. If you care about life on Earth, you can show your love and respect to life by adding this to your living area – on the shelf or on the coffee table. Birds of the Photo Ark is a tribute to all the beautiful birds from two acclaimed birders — Noah Strycker and Joel Sartore.

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