Thursday 28 May 2020

Birds in Art, Film & Photography

Black-mandibled Toucan

Do you long to take a close look at a magpie’s black and white splendour or a toucan’s striking plumage? Two recently published books and a documentary let you do just that.

Close to Birds: An Intimate Look at our Feathered Friends 
“Birds touch us. No other wild animal can waken the curiosity, warm the heart, and quicken the pulse of so many of us. No other wild animal is as close to our hearts. We want to tell you about all of this: about birdsong inspiring comfort and joy, bird flight rousing dreams of freedom, bird presence giving life and character to seasons and landscapes.” 

Close to Birds: An Intimate Look at our Feathered Friends combines magnificent close-up images of birds by Roine Magnusson with short essays and anecdotal accounts about each species by Mats Ottosson and Asa Ottosson. It’s a book to savour and share and is sure to enhance your appreciation for the diversity and beauty of the avian kingdom.

You can view some of the photographs on Roine Magnusson’s website.

The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years 
“Nothing like this had ever been done: a mural depicting all 243 modern families of living birds, five modern families that had gone extinct by human hand within the last thirty thousand years, twenty-one prehistoric ancestors, and a ten-foot caiman to remind people of the mind-bending reality that the crocodile family is more closely related to birds than it is to other reptiles." 

There was a blank wall at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, that cried out for a mural. When Jane Kim came to the Lab as a Bartels Illustrator in 2010, she leaped at the opportunity. And so began a 3-year project to depict “270 life-size animals, from the thirty-foot-long Yutyrannus to the tiny Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird, which weighs about as much as a penny.”

You can now view many of the images and learn more about the birds and Kim’s experience in painting them in The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years.

Jane Kim and writer Thayer Walker founded Ink Dwell studio in 2012 to create art that explores the wonders of the natural world. Images of their work are available on Ink Dwell’s website.

Dancing with the Birds 
“The filmmakers introduce us to individual birds as the male dancers strive to present their best side to females watching nearby. We see not only their successes, but their failures, too. . . . This approach lets us relate to the birds and their strange, idiosyncratic behaviors as they face an existential challenge: In a cacophonous forest with sometimes hundreds of other flashy bird species, how do they find the one—or, for that matter, anyone?” (Audubon)

Dancing with the Birds is a 2019 Netflix documentary narrated by Stephen Fry. It showcases the courtship preparations and dances of birds of paradise. A short preview is available on YouTube and shown below.