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  • Published: 22 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847923561
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $43.99

A Most Remarkable Creature

The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Bird of Prey




An enthralling voyage of discovery to meet a rare and mysterious bird of prey that puzzled Darwin, fascinates modern-day falconers, and carries secrets of our planet's deep past in its family history.

An enthralling account of a modern voyage of discovery as we meet the clever, social birds of prey called caracaras, which puzzled Darwin, fascinate modern-day falconers, and carry secrets of our planet's deep past in their family history.

'Captivating ... full of insights into not only our planet's evolutionary past but also its future' *****Mail on Sunday

In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were tame and inquisitive, quarrelsome and passionate, and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it.

Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving.

A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated. It is much more than a book about birds: it's a journey to uncover moments of first contact between science and religion, and humans and animals.

  • Published: 22 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847923561
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $43.99

About the author

Jonathan Meiburg

Jonathan Meiburg is a writer, ornithologist, and adventurer who's best known as the singer of the band Shearwater. His pieces on science, nature, and music have appeared in The Believer,Talkhouse, and The Appendix. His unique career between the sciences and the arts makes him an ideal guide for a journey that takes in the deep history and landscapes of an entire continent, from the lush forests of Guyana to the windswept Falkland Islands. He lives in central Texas.

Praise for A Most Remarkable Creature

'Utterly captivating and beautifully written, this book is a hugely entertaining and enlightening exploration of a bird so wickedly smart, curious, and social, it boggles the mind. Along the way, Meiburg takes us from the Falklands to the UK, from Guyana to the Antarctic and Florida, and from deep time to the present and back again, describing in brilliant language why these birds--and their planet--are the way they are. If you love birds, natural history, science, travel, adventure, or just great writing, you will be rapt'

Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds

A fascinating, entertaining, and totally engrossing story of these under-appreciated birds, deftly intertwining natural history and human history, and with insights and lessons that go far beyond the subject birds

David Sibley, author of What It's Like to Be a Bird

Does what only the very best science and nature writing can. Jonathan Meiburg reminds us that our world is not fully known, that the prehistoric walk among us, and, most of all, how exciting and unnerving it feels to encounter an animal you've never seen before, and, even more, to find that animal staring right back

Steven Rinella, author of American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon

I'm in love with this book. If you like great writing, strange historical twists, adventure, nature, music and/or birds, this will quickly become one of your all-time favourite books

Laurie Anderson, artist and musician

Caracaras are not like other birds, or even other birds of prey. Curious, wide-ranging, gregarious, and intelligent, the ten species of caracara are a scientific puzzle that has intrigued biologists since the days of Darwin. And this book - as curious, wide-ranging, gregarious, and intelligent as its subject - is not like any other book that I have encountered. A Most Remarkable Creature is not only about a bird, but about the community of people that has formed, almost accidentally, around the bird, and beyond that about humankind itself

Charles C. Mann, author of 1491

What a remarkable feat: taking a mysterious, oddly social, keenly intelligent bird of prey that most of the world has never heard of and animating the creature with such beauty that it comes fully alive in our imaginations. Jonathan Meiburg went on an equatorial search for the latter-day descendants of the age-old caracara and brought back - a little like Darwin himself - travel report, documentary, biography, social history, scientific treatise. And all of it so wonderfully readable

Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat

This book is an evolutionary labyrinth, taking Meiburg to the end of the world following a single, curious predator. Vivid, beautiful, and scientifically rich, crawling with jungle ants, blasted by Antarctic winds, his tales will transport you from the page to wilder places

Craig Childs, author of Atlas of a Lost World

A wonderful book about a fascinating species of bird. I loved its layering of ethology, travel writing and part biography of the author and naturalist, William Henry Hudson. I found myself as enthralled by the birds as I was by the landscapes of South America - from Patagonia to Guyana - Meiburg travels through in search of them

James Macdonald Lockhart, author of Raptor

A book about almost everything... Meiburg tells the biggest of stories via the odd Falkland Islands' raptor, the Johnny Rook... The clarity, the verve and precision of his writing is perfect

Tim Dee, author of The Running Sky

In A Most Remarkable Creature, Jonathan Meiburg introduces us to surely South America's most misunderstood birds, the caracaras. Written sensitively and with an artist's eye for detail, this beautiful and well-researched book sets the record straight, and leaves us yearning to spend time with these intelligent, curious creatures

Jon Dunn, author of 'The Glitter in the Green'

A fascinating, enjoyable read

Bird Watching

[An] elegant debut... Meiburg's voice is poetic... clear and beautiful

NPR

A lavishly talented nature writer, [he] weaves a seamless narrative from the most diverse observations ... a master of descriptive nuance

Wall Street Journal

Captivating ... full of insights into not only our planet's evolutionary past but also its future

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday*****

Meiburg's writing possesses that rare, and very readable, ability to tread surely between the studious and the conversational that renders his obvious deep knowledge pleasingly lightly-worn

Will Burns

If you've ever been at a dull party and then met a person who suddenly brightened the vibe with energetic conversation about his abundant enthusiasms, you know a little of what it's like to come upon Jonathan Meiburg and his first book during a pandemic

Washington Post

Has the breadth and raciness of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and the warmth of a David Attenborough natural history program ... What is delightful about his book is the love of the world it expresses, and the calm fortitude with which it considers our current predicament

John Banville, author of The Sea

Even non-bird watchers (like me) will enjoy this esoteric and erudite investigation into the striated caracara... the startlingly intelligent, sociable and yet little-known member of the falcon family

Tom Robbins, Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2021*

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