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The (Secret) Behavior of Texas Birds: To Live is to Fly

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Perhaps you have a field guide to Texas birds, or you’ve thumbed through one. They have a beautiful painting of a bird with a description of their range and scientific nomenclature. Kent Rylander, at the time a professor of biology at Texas Tech University, took that one step further by describing the complex lives of our feathered cohabitants. While we all live in the same world, our lives don’t intersect with wild birds often, and much of their lives is a mystery. About half of the behaviors described in this wildly unpredictable guide were from his original research, so Kent spent a great deal of time observing Texas birds and other birds in the writing of this book.

A Texas Tech staffer once told me that Kent had the reputation of being the best teaching professor the University had ever had. When Kent does a public presentation, come early to get a seat, as the room will be full. I never took a course from Kent, but in an event sponsored by the Native Plant Society of Texas, which I attended, Kent got a standing ovation at the conclusion an hour-long presentation. The talk ended with a stirring 10-minute description of how a woodpecker’s tongue works. I’m not kidding, it was fascinating.

The (Secret) Behavior of Texas Birds: To Live is to Fly


If you are a birder, you already know this is interesting stuff; if not, you will be shocked by what you discover in this book. Kent began his pursuit of knowledge of the natural world at the age of 13 in Boy Scout summer camp. One day, he was sick and couldn’t go out in the field with the other boys. The leader assigned him a project to do for the day – identify all the birds he could find in the camp. That led him to the Birding Merit Badge and a list of 40 birds to find, and ultimately to a 50-year career teaching at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Junction.

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