> Skip to content
  • Published: 1 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9780224081740
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $80.00

Birds and People

The definitive groundbreaking book on the relationship between birds and humankind, with contributions from bird enthusiasts from all over the world. Endorsed by the RSPB and BirdLife International.

There are 10,500 species of bird worldwide and wherever they occur people marvel at their glorious colours and their beautiful songs. We also trap and consume birds of every kind.

Yet birds have not just been good to eat. Their feathers, which keep us warm or adorn our costumes, give birds unique mastery over the heavens. Throughout history their flight has inspired the human imagination so that birds are embedded in our religions, folklore, music and arts.

Vast in both scope and scale, Birds and People explores and celebrates this relationship and draws upon Mark Cocker’s 40 years of observing and thinking about birds. Part natural history and part cultural study, it describes and maps the entire spectrum of our engagements with birds, drawing in themes of history, literature, art, cuisine, language, lore, politics and the environment. In the end, this is a book as much about us as it is about birds.Birds and People has been stunningly illustrated by one of Europe’s best wildlife photographers, David Tipling, who has travelled in 39 countries on seven continents to produce a breathtaking and unique collection of photographs. The book is as important for its visual riches as it is for its groundbreaking content.

Birds and People is also exceptional in that the author has solicited contributions from people worldwide. Personal anecdotes and stories have come from more than 650 individuals in 81 different countries. They range from university academics to Mongolian eagle hunters, and from Amerindian shamans to some of the most celebrated writers of our age. The sheer multitude of voices in this global chorus means that Birds and People is both a source book on why we cherish birds and a powerful testament to their importance for all humanity.

  • Published: 1 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9780224081740
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $80.00

About the authors

Mark Cocker

Mark Cocker is an author, naturalist and environmental activist whose eleven books include works of biography, history, literary criticism and memoir. His book Crow Country was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2008 and won the New Angle Prize for Literature in 2009. With the photographer David Tipling he published Birds andPeople in 2013, a massive survey described by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘a major literary event as well as an ornithological one’. Our Place: Can We Save Britain's Wildlife Before It Is Too Late?, was described by the Sunday Times as 'impassioned, expert and always beautifully written... a sobering and magnificent work'. His most recent book, A Claxton Diary, won the East Anglia Book Award in 2019.

David Tipling

David Tipling is one of the world’s most widely published wildlife photographers, renowned for his artistic images of birds. His many accolades include a coveted European Nature Photographer of the Year Award (2002) for work on Emperor Penguins, and, in North America, Nature’s Best Indigenous Peoples Award (2009) for his pictures of Mongolian eagle hunters. He is the author of or commissioned photographer for many books including the RSPB Guide to Digital Wildlife Photography (Bloomsbury) and Penguins – Close Encounters (New Holland). His website can be visited at www.davidtipling.com.

Praise for Birds and People

This is a uniquely beautiful and engrossing volume, absolutely drenched in knowledge and love - and more loaded with narrative than any wildlife book I’ve encountered before. It has literature, history, philosophy, folklore, travelogue, biography... Anyone who is interested in natural history will want a copy.

Jim Crace

Full of intense pleasure.

Derwent May, The Times

A sumptuous encyclopedia of humanity’s relationship with birds.

Sunday Times

Sumptuous and poignant… Birds and People is a beautiful anthem to the history and diversity of the relationship between birds and human beings.

Ruth Padel, Independent

Encyclopedic and spellbinding… The sparkling prose never flags, and it is marvelously illustrated by the photographs of David Tipling.


Sumptuous and richly informative.

John Carey, Sunday Times

The greatest joy of this great book is that it is unfinishable as well as unputdownable.

Brian Morton, Herald

A fascinating examination of the relationship between the human and avian worlds… This important book is a clarion call to treasure our birds – or risk losing them forever.

Daily Mail

A delightful duet between nature writer Mark Cocker and wildlife photographer David Tipling.

Nicky Clayton, Nature

David Tipling’s photographs…are irresistible. They are a feast of colour, history, display and insight… This treasure possesses the timelessness and the authority of a genuine magnum opus. It is encyclopaedic in its reach, covering birds in art, literature, dress, heraldry, industry, commerce, cooking, hunting, farming, philosophy, folklore and delight. It stretches way beyond natural history, but that is in there too. A book for all birds and all people.

John Lister-Kaye, Scotland on Sunday

In 600 pages enlivened with David Tipling’s photographs, Mark Cocker has built a magnificent avian ark: a book of everything birdy and birdish, and worth saving from countless and enduring entanglements with Homo sapiens… These pages are rich, sustaining and magically suggestive – all at the same time.

Tim Dee, BBC Wildlife

It’s a project with the ‘wow’ factor – and one that has you reaching for the superlatives.

Trevor Heaton, UK Regional Press Syndication

If ever a book was timely, it is this gorgeously produced 600-page compendium of ornith- logical facts, images, myths and narratives.

John Burnside, New Statesman

Birds and People is primarily a way of looking at our own complex history, through the prism of nature. It is also a beautiful volume, not least because of David Tipling’s excellent photographs… The results are stunning.

Stephen Moss, Sunday Telegraph

Packed with beauty, curiosity, fascination and wonder on every page, Birds and People is probably best not wolfed down but savoured bit by bit. It is a truly exceptional work, soaring in its scope, boundless in its interest, with an ambition matched only by its achievement… Strikes me as the sort of masterpiece that only comes along once or twice a decade.

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

A monumental new account of the role birds play in human life.

Patrick Barkham, Guardian

Birds and People isn’t just a book for bird enthusiasts, but a thoughtful look at how one seemingly common creature can influence and enrich so much of our lives.

UK Regional Press

Encyclopedic in content, sumptuous in production and has the gripping, intensive quality of a classic potboiler. This wonderful book should never be confined to a dusty life on a shelf but regarded as a trusty, companion ready to give wise knowledge, faithful service and boundless enjoyment at every opportunity.

Stuart Winter, Sunday Express

[Cocker’s] magnificent new book is a work of encyclopedic proportion, a labour of love and, in unusual ways, a collaboration – and not just with the photographer David Tipling, whose images are as original and brilliantly distinguished as their feathered subjects.

Andrew McNellie, Country Life

Seven years in the making, Birds and People is a doorstep of a book that becomes a lifetime’s investment once owned, revealing many layers of both human and animal nature in the most absorbing of ways. It is as much a work of anthropology as ornithology, and all the better for it. Quite possibly Mark Cocker’s masterpiece.

David Callahan, Birdwatch

A tapestry that is by turns fascinating, delightful, surprising and grim. Birds and People rewards the idle browser and will be an important addition to the shelves of anyone who cares about how we interact with the non-human world or what sort of creatures we are becoming… David Tipling’s photographs…are gorgeous.

Caspar Henderson, Literary Review

Magnificent… 600 stunningly illustrated and gorgeously produced pages.

James Bradley, Nothern Times

Visually rich, historically fascinating and vast in both scope and scale, this is a wonderful addition to any bookcase.

Mary Lussiana, Country & Town House

Cocker has collected hundreds of anecdotes that illustrate the relationship between humans and birds… He writes movingly about the part that birds play in our culture.

Molly Guinness, Spectator

For the unashamed bird-lover… A meticulous and caring study of how humans think about, imagine, use, misuse and abuse the most miraculous of our fellow creatures.

John Burnside, New Statesman

A magnificently compendious account of the connections (and lack of them) between the human and avian world… a marvellous object too.

Andrew Motion, Times Literary Supplement


Jim Crace, Guardian

Birds and People by Mark Cocker and David Tipling is almost too wonderful a book to give away.

John Burnside, Scotsman

Mark Cocker’s Birds and People, is 535 pages of text and David Tipling’s luminous photographs: a true magnum opus, revealing the whole ghastly story of man’s long exploitation of our feathered friends.

John Lister-Kaye, Scotsman

A remarkable work, taking in every family of birds on earth and the way humans have interacted them.

Simon Barnes, The Times

A vast, ambitious and surprisingly personal overview of what birds mean to human beings... Birds and People is a dense, weighty delight, to be dipped into again and again as curiosity commands. Written with grace, conscientious stewardship and unfettered love, the book is a transformative look at the feathered dinosaurs that, despite all we have done to them, still grace our fields, forests and skies. Birds and People is an encyclopedia with a heart.

Julie Zickefoose, Wall Street Journal

Well laid out and designed and fluidly written, the book seems the best yet on its complex subject.

Henry T. Armistead, Science

The intricate research of Mark Cocker and the award-winning photography of David Tipling make this incredible feat of research one of the year’s finest examples of outdoor literature. Humanity’s bond with these feathered beasts is explored with such depth that it boggles the mind as to how the author pulled this overwhelming project together with such success.

James Reader, The Great Outdoors Magazine

The bird book I never knew I needed until I had it. Far from a reference book, it is full of stories – mythology, folklore, personal tales – and that is what makes it so beguiling.

Diane Setterfield, Big Issue

Mark Cocker has done it again.

John Wilkins, Tablet

Authoritative yet readable… The definitive book on the subject.

Mark Whitley, Countryman

Related titles