Monday, December 8, 2014

The Urban Bestiary - Lyanda Lynn Haupt


Do you know the wild animals that live around you in your city or suburb?  Lyanda Lynn Haupt does.  She can help you get to know them, too, introducing you to a fascinating world.

Did you know that pigeons are the only birds in the world that drink by sucking water up, like horses, rather than dipping their beaks in water, tilting their heads back, and letting the water run down their throats?  They're also good at math.

Did you know that if you happen upon a black bear you should not say 'Go away, bad bear' (variations of which are recommended whenever you meet a wild animal, who is probably at least as startled as you are) because he / she may have been fed by idiot humans who offer donuts or sandwiches saying 'Here bear, want a sandwich?'  Bears may interpret the word 'bear' as an invitation.  They're not as stupid as some of us are. 

Did you know that in the last thirty years there have been two hundred injuries to humans by coyotes but there are 4.5 million domestic dog bites each year, eight hundred of those serious?  Each year there are dozens of fatal attacks on humans by dogs, but there are only two known human deaths by coyotes in North America.  Did you know that our government spends more money each year killing coyotes than the cost of the damage they do to livestock?

Did you know that opossums sleep up to twenty hours a day, five of those in REM sleep, which means they may dream more than humans?

I have always loved animals and been interested in learning about them.  Lyanda Lynn Haupt is a naturalist, a terrific writer, and an eco-philosopher.  She and her family sleep in a tent in their backyard in the summer.  She sits quietly and watches the world around her and relates what she sees.

Haupt urges us to observe the natural world around us in our urban or suburban lives, not only to learn more about the fellow creatures who share it with us, but because connection to nature is essential to our health and mental well-being.  It can also teach us how small things have a huge impact, showing us the interrelatedness of all things.  It is truly the butterfly effect.  We like to separate ourselves from nature, but when it comes down to it, we're all animals.

This book is filled with facts and personal observations about some of the most common urban / suburban animals and birds.  There's even a section about trees and the comfort and inspiration many of us get from them.

I loved this book for many reasons.  I hope you love it, too.

Later:  For Stephanie  -  Haupt writes about keeping journals and says she likes to use Noodler's brown ink!


  1. The info about pigeons made me cool. I'll have to read this...thanks for writing about it.

    1. I know many people hate pigeons, but Haupt and I think they're beautiful, so many colors. And look how gracefully they fly! Their voices are soft and soothing. Sorry, I can't find anything to hate about pigeons. The people in my city are dirtier than the pigeons!

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book! I am going to see if my library has it. And how cool she likes Noodler's brown ink!

    1. I think you'd enjoy it. I almost shouted when I read the bit about her using Noodler's ink and thought 'I've got to tell Stephanie!'

  3. I love birds but I'm not so keen on pigeons and seagulls, there are just so many of them. I've been told that pigeons are the only birds which breed all the year round, that would account for the numbers. I am a bit of a tree hugger though so this book sounds interesting to me.

    1. That's interesting. She didn't mention that so now I'm going to have to find out. I think that would spell disaster for chicks in our climate, but then the mortality rate for almost all birds and mammals is horrendously high.

      If you're a true treehugger, you'll love what she has to say about the spiritual connections of trees to some humans. I love trees, too, but I got a little uncomfortable with this part.