Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America (Paperback)

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Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America By Michael Edmonds Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Combining beautiful color illustrations (Audubon Prints, Edward Curtis photos, George Catlin paintings, historic maps, and much more) with exceptionally deep research, Edmonds brings together 25 years of work to chronicle Midwestern birds and people. As a staff member at the Wisconsin Historical Society, he had access to high level expertise in the fields of archaeology, history, ornithology and American Indian spiritual practices; he also understands (and offers us) the latest avenues for electronic research, as well as good old fashioned digging into library collections and museums. Edmonds' discussions of the ways people have worshiped, thought about, studied, and used birds for food, profit, enlightenment, and healing over thousands of years explore our human perceptions of nature and our cultural tendencies. Fascinating stories about conflicting viewpoints, sometimes with real conflict, between conservationists and frontier hunters, Native American and Christian religions, university academics and folklore believers make this an engaging reading experience. Edmonds writes with the skill of a historian who loves a story; he's both a birder and an intellectual at heart.

— Tim


A dynamic account of ornithological history in America’s heartland.    

Today, more than fifty million Americans traipse through wetlands at dawn, endure clouds of mosquitoes, and brave freezing autumn winds just to catch a glimpse of a bird. The human desire to connect with winged creatures defies age and generation. In the Midwest, humans and birds have lived together for more than twelve thousand years. Taking Flight explores how and why people have worshipped, feared, studied, hunted, eaten, and protected the birds that surrounded them.

Author and birder Michael Edmonds has combed archaeological reports, missionaries’ journals, travelers’ letters, early scientific treatises, the memoirs of American Indian elders, and the folklore of hunters, farmers, and formerly enslaved people throughout the Midwest to reveal how our ancestors thought about the very same birds we see today. Whether you’re a casual bird-watcher, a hard-core life-lister, or simply someone who loves the outdoors, you’ll look at birds differently after reading this book.

About the Author

Michael Edmonds has been a recreational birder for three decades. He is the author of two award-winning books from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Out of the Northwoods and Risking Everything, and has written several articles for the Wisconsin Magazine of History and other journals. He graduated from Harvard University in 1976, joined the Wisconsin Historical Society staff in 1982, and has taught at the University of Wisconsin since 1986. 

Product Details
ISBN: 9780870208362
ISBN-10: 0870208365
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 224
Language: English