Magnificent Birds illustrated by Japanese artist Narisa Togo, is a simple but remarkable book that lies somewhere between fairytale and natural history book.
Waiting to be discovered between the beautiful teal hardcover are birds that even a non-birder will recognise like the Barn Owl; that near-silent night-time hunter with eyesight twice as sensitive as a humans, to rare, exotic species we are never likely to clap eyes, or binoculars on.
Each captivatingly crafted double-page of Togo’s lino-cut artwork is dedicated to one bird, bringing it to life in bold, matt colour and delicately drawn and realistically evocative landscapes; like bubblegum pink flamingos splashing in a pink sea; their faces to the sun, or the endless blue of the ocean churning beneath a Wandering Albatross’s vast wingspan. Educational as well as beautiful, two succinct paragraphs per bird tantalise the reader with fascinating facts, interesting snippets, quirky habits and mystical folklore that can only deepen our curiosity in these ‘magnificent birds’.
This is a book that takes you to Papua New Guinea, the steamy tropics, the Aussie outback and the freezing Arctic. If you close your eyes and listen hard enough you may even hear the far off screeching of jungle parrots or the ‘swooshing’ of Bald Eagle wings.
So dive in for Kingfisher’s with lightening flashes of holographic turquoise, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds whose wings beat faster than any other birds or the Bar-Tailed Godwit that navigates by the stars. Find out why Peregrines are attracted to our city’s skyscrapers and the Wandering Albatross has been a symbol to sailors on the high seas for centuries long past.
From Birds of Paradise that inherit special dance moves to the exquisite, graceful and rare Japanese Crane; a symbol of luck and longevity, these are just the tip of a Penguin’s iceberg of fantastical bird facts and it is both uplifting a poignant.
As it becomes harder to escape words like ‘Anthropocene’ and ‘insectageddon’, the unprecedented environmental shifts occurring due to climate change bring the affecting realisation that these enchanted drawings of ‘magnificent birds’ may one day be all we have left of our feathered friends.
Magnificent Birds is a love story to our natural world, a factual read for bird enthusiasts and a touching reminder of the astonishing and often unexpected beauty, diversity and ingenuity of the natural world.
Images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published Magnificent Birds by Narisa Togo.
Magnificent Birds is out now on Walker Books.