29 November 2012

Kenya: How Much Do You Know About Birds?

BOOK: Being a Bird

AUTHORS: Harriet Matsaert, Kevin Gichuki, Edson Mlamba, Peter Muriithi, Fleur Ng'weno, Peter Wairasho

PUBLISHER: Nature Kenya

By Star Writer

This colourfully illustrated little book will make a perfect Christmas gift for any child interested in Kenya's wonderful variety of nature. It starts off by asking kids to look out of the window, whether they live in the town or in the country, as there is bound to be a bird nearby.

It then explains what it is like to be a bird, how their eyesight is fantastic and a kestrel can spot a mouse in the grass two kilometers away.

The authors then run through birds in a variety of environments - in trees, at night, around water, at the coast, on the farm, in dry places, in town, and in the sky.

There are illustrations of over 100 birds and detailed descriptions of some of them. For instance, the shrike is also known as the 'butcher bird' because it impales the insects and small animals it catches on the thorns of acacia trees.

The different types of bird beak are explained - for cracking nuts, fishing, or drinking nectar - along with the different types of bird toes. Did you know the ostrich has only two toes, one of which is an enormous claw for defense?

It is explained how birds keep clean, migrate to Europe for half of the year, nest and court, or become brood parasites and dump their eggs in another bird's nest.

This excellently printed hardback book is a nice mixture of science and anecdote. It is full of information that can be absorbed by any child who enjoys reading.

Finally, my favourite fact: the Ruppel's vulture can fly up 11,000 metres into the sky, riding on thermals. That is twice the height of Mount Kenya! So if you are flying and see you a bird alongside, take note!

Being A Bird is available at Nature Kenya bookshop at the National Museum, Kenya Museum Society bookshop and other major bookshops. The retail price is Sh800.

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