The British love their birds, which are inextricably entwined with every aspect of their island life. British customs, more than 1,000 years of English literature, the very fabric of society, even the landscape itself, have all been enhanced by the presence of birds. Now, at last, here is a book which pays tribute to the remarkable relationship forged between a nation and its most treasured national heritage.
Birds Britannica is neither an identification guide nor a behavioural study (though both these subjects enter its field), it concentrates on our social history and on the cultural links between humans and birds. It includes observations and experiences from more than 1,000 naturalists and bird lovers. These contributions from the public touch on aviation ecology; the lore and language of birds; their myths, the art and literature they have inspired; birds as food; and the crucial role they play in our sense of place and the changing seasons.
The book has taken eight years to research and write, and has been assembled by a team which includes some of the finest writers and image-makers of British wildlife. On one level, it is a remarkable collection of humorous stories, field observations and tales of joy, wonder and occasional woe; on another, it is a nationwide chronicle. Scholarly and wide-ranging, a mix of the traditional and the contemporary, Birds Britannica is a comprehensive record of birdlife in the early years of the twenty-first century.
Mark Cocker is one of Britain's foremost writers on nature and contributes regularly to the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, as well as BBC Radio Four. His six other books deal with modern responses to wilderness, whether found in landscape, human societies or in other species, including a biography, Richard Meinerzthagen, shortlisted for the Angel Prize. He recently won a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship to study the cultural importance of birds in West Africa. Richard Mabey is 'Britain's greatest living nature writer' (The Times) and the force behind the Britannica series. Among his acclaimed publications are Food for Free, Gilbert White (Whitbread Biography of the Year) Nature Cure, Beechcombings and Flora Britannica, which won the British Book Awards' Illustrated Book of the Year and the Botanical Society of the British Isles' President's Award. He also collaborated with Peter Marren on Bugs Britannica.