'The Genius of Birds' Book Discussion at Austin Gardens

 "The Genius of Birds" book cover.

"The Genius of Birds" book cover.

By Lisa Biehle Files

Recent research shows that birds are far more capable than we once thought. They have keen visual intelligence, navigation skills, and empathy. They solve problems, make tools, and even innovate.

“The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman, which observes this first-hand, will be the subject of the next four meetings of the Austin Gardens Book Club. All are welcome to this free book discussion.

Meetings will go from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 21, and Dec.19, at Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, 167 Forest, in Oak Park.

“The Genius of Birds” was a New York Times national bestseller and named one of the 10 best nonfiction books of 2016 by the Wall Street Journal. Jennifer Ackerman’s website reads, “This book explores the new view of birds as ‘thinkers’—cunning, playful, witty, greedy, cranky, joyful, competitive.”

Park District Program Supervisor Leah Pryor will lead the discussion for this group of nature lovers, which she started one year ago. Already, the club has covered such classics as Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” and “The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures,” a collection of Muir’s writings.

Leah has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Lawrence University and a master’s degree in Behavioral Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics from Illinois State University.

Her interest in birds runs deep. The impact of parasites on starling nestlings was the topic for her master’s thesis. She even wrote an honors bachelor’s thesis analyzing the diet of a particular bat residing in the Philippine Islands. Since that time, she worked for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum before accepting her current post as Program Supervisor for the Oak Park Park District.

Says Pryor: “With the book club, we don’t always stay on the topic of the book, but we always have a lively discussion and enjoyable time. The book discussion group is a great way to come out and connect with like-minded people.”