Book Review: In the Company of Birds

In the Company of Birds by Linda Johns. First published 1995. As reviewed and pictured: hardcover, 122 pages.

I've never had a pet bird, or had more than short visits with pet birds of friends or family. Over time in 2010 and 2011 I was lucky enough to spend some time with the education birds at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. These birds are absolutely not pets, but as a volunteer handler I had the chance to get to know them, just a bit. I have seen more experienced handlers in the company of these majestic raptors, and I am amazed at the relationships that can develop between human and bird. I can only hope to become as well-acquainted with avian friends as my fellow volunteers were.

Author Linda Johns is fortunate enough to have gotten to intimately know many avian friends. In her book In the Company of Birds she tells of some of her feathered companions, both pets and rehabilitation patients, many of whom share her home with her for an extended period. Pigeons Desmond and Molly, along with regular resident roosters Bubble and Squeak (raised from chickhood), are joined at various times by a starling, a duck, a grackle, an owl, and others. The stories of these individual birds are intertwined as the birds grow up and some transition from patient to wild and free visitor.

The detailed stories of the birds' personal lives are fun to follow. Bubble and Squeak's coming of age tales are a particular joy to read. Not all rehabilitation stories have happy endings, and the author honestly shares her successes and well as her failures. While I enjoyed reading about the various birds, their unique personalities, and about the hilarious predicaments in which the author frequently finds herself as a result of her avian charges, one part of the book fell a bit flat with me. Besides being an author and wild bird rehabber, Linda Johns is a fine artist, and throughout the book she presents avian situations as inspiration for her artwork. I couldn't really follow the paragraphs where Johns translates her connection with the birds to her artwork, even when said artwork is reproduced in the pages of the book. These ties between bird spirituality and artwork didn't come up so frequently to sour me on the book completely, though.

In the end I found this to be an enjoyable slice-of-rehabber-life read, and I give In the Company of Birds 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.

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