Scientists, innovators, writers, poets…the greatest thinkers the world over have been inspired by nature.
Leonardo da Vinci’s glider was designed with wings that did not fall straight down but went from side to side like leaves falling from a tree. He observed that fish had body shapes that were ideal for travelling through water – and thus came up with fish-shaped hulls in boats. His design of tanks was based on his observation of turtles, and more famously the ornithopter was designed after a detailed study of birds.
Closer home, there is Ruskin Bond, and Sir C.V. Raman who put it beautifully – “Science does not flourish only inside laboratories. The real inspiration of science for me has been essentially the love of nature. I think the essence of the scientific spirit is to realise what a wonderful world it is that we live in.”
This is probably what draws us to books on nature – on stars and planets, plants and animals, bugs and creatures that inhabit the sea.
Books like these make kids - and indeed, adults - look closely at the natural world around them. We stand to gain a lot by doing so, because after all, nature is our best teacher.
When I began reading “Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest: Where Birds Begin”, I got so engrossed, I completely lost track of time and couldn’t put the book down until I had read it a couple of times.
What does a bird need to build a nest?
Some birds don’t build a nest at all.
Murres are seabirds that lay eggs on cliff edges. The eggs don’t roll off because they’re so pointy they roll in a tight circle if nudged. Each egg has its own special pattern, so the parents can always find it!
Some birds cheat – the cuckoo and the cowbird lay their eggs in other birds’ nests.
From the tiniest nest of all – that of a hummingbird – half as big as a ping-pong ball, to the sociable weaver’s nest with a hundred chambers – what is common is their ingenuity.
The tailorbird, the masked weaver and Baltimore oriole build intricate nests – works of art.
The hornbills win the “Arundhati prize for best couple” – the female seals herself into a hole in a tree, the male feeds her through a small opening for the next four months while she lays and hatches her eggs inside her snug chamber, not breaking the barrier until the chicks are two weeks old.
The book looks at 40 different species of birds, all around the world.
Each double-page spread deals with a couple of birds, with large bright illustrations. Young readers can pick up the book and read about a few birds – and their nests - each time. This is a wonderful book and one that I would love to add to my home library for dipping into every now and then.
The world map at the end of the book shows the Atlantic Puffin in Asia – but that is something I’m willing to overlook considering the book is superb in every other way. This is the first edition of the book so I hope the error will be corrected in later editions.
So what does it take to build a bird’s nest?
There are different answers for different kinds of birds. Simple or fancy, every species finds a way to create a cozy nest that is the perfect home for raising a family. And, for those of us who are so inclined, there’s a lesson right there!
[Image source amazon.com]