Review – The Unfeathered Bird

In all honesty, I was creeped out when I opened up The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw. This is most likely due to the accurate representation of skeletal systems and posture of species depicted in this coffee table type book. Van Grouw et al have spent over 25 years and countless hours producing this magnificent and detailed book that provides insight into the skeletal structure, function, and evolution of birds.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, which was a hot topic in the movie, The Big Year, is depicted in both “skin removed but tail left attached” (left) and “skeleton” (right) forms below. The drawings are extremely detailed and absolutely flawless.

The Unfeathered Bird details all parts of a bird’s skeleton including the right foot of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus. Van Grouw shows the foot on the ground along with every view and angle you can think of.

I really like the posture drawings in The Unfeathered Bird, such as the Indian Runner Duck (left), Anas platyrbynchos, and the Mallard (right), Anas platyrbynchos. This is a really cool way of showing the skeletal system because you frequently encounter these two species, whether they are domestic or wild, in an upright posture.

The shorebird skull plate, if you will, that is pictured below appears to be well though out. I really find the comparison between different head and bill shapes to be very intriguing. The detail needed to draw an accurate representation of these skulls is unbelievable.

More on The Unfeathered Bird

  • A unique book that bridges art, science, and history
  • Over 385 beautiful drawings, artistically arranged in a sumptuous large-format book
  • Accessible, jargon-free text–the only book on bird anatomy aimed at the general reader
  • Drawings and text all based on actual bird specimens
  • Includes most anatomically distinct bird groups
  • Many species never illustrated before

About the author – “Katrina van Grouw is a former curator of the ornithological collections at London’s Natural History Museum, a taxidermist, an experienced bird bander, a successful fine artist, and a graduate of the Royal College of Art. She is the author of Birds, a historical retrospective of bird art, published under her maiden name Katrina Cook. The creation of The Unfeathered Bird has been her lifetime’s ambition.”

You can purchase this hauntingly beautiful book from Princeton University Press for $49.95.

Disclosure – Princeton University Press kindly provided us with a review copy of this book.