Caspar Henderson

Fly Like a Bananaquit

Birds and People

By

Jonathan Cape 592pp £40 order from our bookshop

A Manx Shearwater was ringed as a three-month-old chick in its Welsh nest burrow. Fourteen days later the same bird arrived, unaccompanied by any of its kin, in its species’ usual winter quarters off the coast of Argentina, some 8,000 kilometres away. ‘An individual bird may repeat that same oceanic journey, back and forth, 100 times’ before it dies. In Victorian London the owner of a coaching inn at Elephant and Castle kept a raven. ‘The bird was also friendly with a number of the drivers and would set out on short happy excursions perched on top of their coaches, switching vehicles whenever an inbound driver happened to pass to take him back to the inn.’ Once home, the raven would consort with his closest friend, a large pet dog in the stables.

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