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Who Knew?

June 17, 2010

I’m learning all sorts of useful ornithological trivia from All About Birds, the penultimate addition to my newly designated bird shelf.

  1. During the Renaissance, before natural scientists could explain migration, they assumed that birds travelled to the moon or hid in bodies of water.
  2. Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605), my new favorite ortnithologist, wrote a three-volume gem called Ornithologiae, where he described birds, their habitat, their habits and how to capture, preserve and cook them!
  3. Isidore of Seville (560-636) believed that the saliva of cuckoos could produce grasshoppers.

The book is fascinating in its intensely strange details, if a little on the dense side. As I said earlier, the stunning illustrations make up for the dreary prose. Are there any histories of ornithology out there that are also fascinating reads? Please let me know — I still have room on my Bird shelf!

I used to always ask my students what literary figure (fictional character or author) they would like to dine with and to think of questions they’d ask the person. It was a fun exercise and got them thinking of the importance of literature and how it actually intersects with their own lives. If I were to have dinner with Ulisse Aldrovandi, I’d definitely ask him about his bird-cooking: what spices did he use? which species are tastiest? I’d also ask him what he thought birds did while hanging out on the moon…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 17, 2010 9:19 pm

    Aldrovandi’s book on chickens is a landmark–bet he’d whip up a nice roasted one for your fantasy dinner!

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