The Study of Instinct. By N. Tinbergen. (Oxford U.P., 1951. 25s.). Field observers have long felt the need of an authoritative, condensed summing up of the vast but fragmentary and often contradictory mass of fact and theory which has been accumulating about animal behaviour in recent years. All serious students of bird habits must be indebted to Dr. Tinbergen for having produced a guide to the subject so much better than could reasonably have been expected in view of its rapid and confusing development up to the present moment. One hardly knows whether to admire most the profound grasp and easy exposition of the broad relationships between physiology, psychology, ethology (" the objective study of behaviour"), ecology, sociology and taxonomy, or the clear, concrete language, dissecting and criticising the technicalities without ever losing sight of the living creatures behind them, and without ever becoming enslaved to jargon. The illustration of the text with no less than 130 diagrams adds greatly to the ease and enjoyment of following it, and the publishers have achieved a standard of production worthy of the high importance of the work, which observers of bird behaviour will no doubt be consulting pretty frequently for years to come. While the subject-matter is drawn from the entire animal world the author's ornithological experience ensures t h a t birds receive fully their fair share of attention, and the comparisons with behaviour of invertebrates, fishes and mammals (not excluding man) add considerably to the value of the work and
Issue 5

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now