Book Review: The Homing Instinct, by Bernd Heinrich

Review by Stephen J. Bodio
From the Spring 2014 issue of Living Bird magazine.
April 15, 2014

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

This book is not about birds; or, rather, it is about birds and many other creatures, their yearning for home and the ways they use to return. Though these days other creatures’ ways may seem more miraculous (turtles are incredible), would we have the concept of homing without birds? Without the studies of homing pigeons by Cornell professor William Keeton, could we have imagined the magnetic sense? Birds navigate by the sun and the stars and by a magnetic compass that they may even be able to see. Though Heinrich’s accounts of homing range from bees to sea turtles to himself—and even bedbugs—birds’ travels are still the longest on earth. Only a bird, the Bar-tailed Godwit, makes a non-stop flight from Alaska to Australia in 8.1 days. Those who enjoy Heinrich’s informed storytelling, his willingness to admit mystery, and erudite free-association will love this book. I do.

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