David Campbell Callender (1860-1926) was a gentle Irish naturalist living in Derry who was left to manage his failing family business, yet traced the flight of birds, founded a museum, looked to the hills, and watched the grass grow beautiful under his feet.
Birds and Humans: who are we? is written in his honour and memory, in an affectionate account that he might himself have written and with images that he might have chosen, by his granddaughter Ruth Finnegan in July 2021. Writing as Ruth I should make clear, though I suppose it will be obvious, that this is a book of common parlance rather than of expert science so I have as far as possible avoided specialist terminology and Latin names. There are plenty of excellent and highly recommended books that provide full scientific information and terminology if that is what you need, this is just not one of them. As Ruth, too, I have loved preparing this book. Of course, I have always admired birds – their colour, their skills, their cooperative activities and individuality, who wouldn’t! What amazing creatures they are! How incredibly, in parallel lives to us humans, they seem indeed to be another miracle of our beautiful earth even though their quality is not always fully appreciated. Given this and the wealth of books and knowledge about homo sapiens, my main though not exclusive focus has been on the birds. Fear not, humans are there too, and we return to them directly in the closing sections.
I hope you find something of the same joy in reading about these wonderful beings as I do in putting together this attempt to appreciate something of their elusive being.
Again, as Ruth, I write as an anthropologist with long interests in music, language, communication and comparative culture, thinking now that I would like to extend this to the culture of birds. Let me also add that in general I find it more natural to follow a practice by now long established in my own discipline of anthropology, of where possible speaking – and thinking – of individuals and groups rather than of The Conglomerate Species, it somehow feels more down to earth and a touch more respectful.