Humans, Nature, and Birds

Science Art from Cave Walls to Computer Screens

Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy; Foreword by Paul R. Ehrlich

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $22.00
Our shopping cart does not support Safari. Please use another browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

Out of Print

A sweeping look at 30,000 years of art depicting birds—from Paleolithic images to those of the Information Age—viewed through a science lens

This book invites readers to enter a two-floor virtual “gallery” where 60-plus images of birds reflecting the accomplishments of human pictorial history are on display. These are works in a genre the authors term Science Art—that is, art that says something about the natural world and how it works. Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy show how these works of art can advance our understanding of the ways nature has been perceived over time, its current vulnerability, and our responsibility to preserve its wealth.

Each room in the gallery is dedicated to a single topic. The rooms on the first floor show birds as icons, birds as resources, birds as teaching tools, and more. On the second floor, the images and their captions clarify what Science Art is and how the intertwining of art and science can change the way we look at each. The authors also provide a timeline linking scientific innovations with the production of images of birds, and they offer a checklist of steps to promote the creation and accessibility of Science Art. Readers who tour this unique and fascinating gallery will never look at art depicting nature in the same way again.

Published with assistance from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Public Understanding of Science and Technology Program.

Darryl Wheye is a freelance artist and writer specializing primarily in birds and Science Art. She lives in Woodside, CA. Donald Kennedy is editor in chief of the journal Science. He is president emeritus and Bing Professor of Environmental Science emeritus, Stanford University. He lives in Palo Alto, CA.

"The images and captions in Humans, Nature, and Birds are all well-chosen, and the captions have the feel of an entertaining and informative gallery talk. Together they form a compelling exploration of one of the areas of life which is a source of great satisfaction for me and for so many fellow birders. This is one of my favorite books of 2008."—Wayne Mones,  Audubon Magazine

“The authors’ use of birds as a binding motif gives their book appeal and coherence, and the selection of art is eclectic and apt.”—Timothy Goldsmith, Yale University

"The authors lead us through a wonderland where science and art intersect.”—Thomas E. Lovejoy, co-author of Climate Change and Biodiversity


“A half-century ago, George M. Sutton’s essay ‘Is Bird-art Art?’ began the rehabilitation of avian art in fine art circles. Humans, Nature, and Birds, in an elegant survey of the grand interplay of bird art and ornithology, makes the definitive case.”—H. Douglas Pratt, Research Curator of Birds, North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences

“Just as a glass of a fine wine is meant to be enjoyed sip by sip, this book will be enjoyed page by page. Its . . . thought-provoking images depict our age-old fascination with birds, ranging from the owl traced 30,000 years ago in Chauvet Cave, to the goshawk attacking grouse in a dramatic modern painting.”—Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA and author of the Pulitzer-prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel

“Masterfully demonstrates how art connects people to nature, advances science, and helps protect our environment. I’ll never look at nature art the same way again.”—John Flicker, President, National Audubon Society

“Reading this book is like having a friend with a key to the natural history art museum. The authors take us on an excursion, conveying palpable delight in works of art from across the spectrum of time and around the world. ”—Julie Zickefoose, artist and author of Letters from Eden

“Tells a powerful and well-documented story of the interconnectedness of creative expression and birds, building a sound case for recognizing Science Art as a genre.”—Kathy Kelsey Foley, Director, Woodson Art Museum


“Birds were there—on cave walls and rock shelters thirty millennia ago, on Egyptian tombs, in Joseph Wright’s painting from the dawn of the Industrial Age, in Roger Tory Peterson’s first biodiversity guide, and today, where art is the only record of many species now gone forever. Wheye and Kennedy assemble the ultimate exhibition of bird art, with detailed notes that say so much about our world and our view of it.”—Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology, Duke University

“Beautifully examines where science and art overlap through the common territory of observation—and the human urge to both make sense of and embrace the great unknown.”—James Prosek, painter and author


“The authors take us in a new direction—an edgy new direction—and force us to consider broadly the relation between art and science”—Alan Brush, University of Connecticut

"Informative and stimulating, a must-read book for any who have derided bird art in the past. It will change your thinking."—Dave Gagon, Deseret News

"[A] novel and fascinating volume. . . . It is an enthusiastic and enlightening account of the diverse ways our understanding of bird biology has been enhanced by art. . . . . The scientific monitoring of bird populations, motivated largely by a love of birds, provides a sensitive and accurate barometer of the quality of life. This book is a celebration of that fact."—Tim Birkhead, IBIS

"[An] interesting and well-constructed overview of the natural history and imagery of birds. . . . [Wheye and Kennedy] present birds as a case study to describe what they call 'Science Art,' assigning the term to a genre of art that contains scientific content. . . . Their text highlights the science they find in the images selected, and I found their explanations enriched my understanding of the material. Further, I appreciate Wheye and Kennedy's awareness that there is often more to the creation of the images than what immediately meets the eye."—Mary Parrish, Science

"Humans, Nature, and Birds demonstrates through selected images that superior artists may shine such an insightful light on the natural world that the 'two cultures' unite in a new genre: Science Art. . . . Wheye and Kennedy illustrate how the two disciplines merge successfully in images chosen from among thousands going back to the dawn of human history. Birds, lively and colorful animals with intriguing, even dramatic, behavior, are the focus of almost all of the 60-odd images presented here. The book itself is a pleasure to hold."—Frank Graham Jr., Audubon

"Humans, Nature, and Birds [contains] 69 pieces of bird art—from 30,000 year-old cave art to works by Audubon, Charley Harper, Robert Bateman, Vadim Gorbatov, and other artists—and what each says about our evolving understanding of nature.—Birder's World

"Wheye and Kennedy explore the natural world and how artists have recorded it through 60 striking color plates of bird images from Paleolithic times to the digital age. . . . Each plate has a facing page captioned to draw out the artistic and scientific significance of the images and to raise the 'visibility of scientifically valid art about nature.' . . . 'Science art,' the term capturing this relationship of mutual illumination, is aptly illustrated. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"This is a most unique, unusual, and thought provoking book."—Wildlife Activist

"Humans, Nature, and Birds is a book from which scientists can learn about art, and artists can learn about science. It is challenging to integrate diverse fields, but this book does so effectively, mostly with non-technical language that makes it accessible to a wide readership."—Northwest Science

"Wheye and Kennedy take a close look at humanity's relationship with birds. . . . They arrange this art . . . in a kind of virtual 'gallery' that tells, room by room, of birds as symbols, a natural resource, exemplars of important biological principles or as species useful in encouraging conservation. And they describe art that reveals bird behavior—individual, intraspecies and interspecies, including relations between birds and people."—Cornelia Dean, New York Times

A 2008 Top Seller in Botany/Zoology as compiled by YBP Library Services

Gold medal winner of the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the Nature category, presented by ForeWord magazine.
ISBN: 9780300158625
Publication Date: November 24, 2009
240 pages, 6 11/16" x 9 3/4
75 color illus.
Wild Solutions

How Biodiversity is Money in the Bank, Second Edition

Andrew Beattie and Paul R.

View details
The Stork and the Plow

The Equity Answer to the Human Dilemma

Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Gretchen C. Daily

View details