A Most Remarkable Creature

The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World’s Smartest Birds of Prey

AMRC book cover

 
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“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

In 1833, a young Charles Darwin was astonished by a strange animal he met in the Falkland Islands: a set of 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 met many unusual creatures in his five-year voyage, but no others showed an interest in studying him, and he 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; and almost two hundred years later, Meiburg picks up where Darwin left off. These birds-now called striated caracaras-still exist, though they’re very rare; and A Most Remarkable Creature reveals the wild and fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures in a series of travels throughout South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana. Along the way, Meiburg draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world; and takes us to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive birds 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’s much more than a book about birds; it’s a journey to uncover moments of first contact between humans and animals, science and religion, and the mismatched continents of what Europeans mistakenly called the New World.
 

Praise for A Most Remarkable Creature

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 favorite books.”

— Laurie Anderson, artist and musician

“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 and The Bird Way

“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

“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 rich, sprawling romp through time and far-flung, fabulous spaces, in pursuit of one of Earth’s most enigmatic, engaging, and shrewdest creatures.”

— Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us and Countdown

A Most Remarkable Creature 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