Boom and Bust
Bird Stories for a Dry CountryEdited by:
Leading writers draw on ideas in both science and the humanities to tell the stories of birds and people in the world's driest inhabited continent.
In Boom and Bust, the authors draw on the natural history of Australia's charismatic birds to explore the relations between fauna, people and environment in a continent where variability is 'normal' and rainfall patterns not always seasonal. They consider changing ideas about deserts and how these have helped us understand birds and their behaviour in this driest of continents. + Full description
The book describes the responses of animals and plants to environmental variability and stress. It is also a cultural concept, when it is used to capture the patterns of change wrought by humans in Australia, where landscapes began to become cultural about 55,000 years ago as ecosystems responded to Aboriginal management. In 1788, the British settlement brought, almost simultaneously, both agricultural and industrial revolutions to a land previously managed by fire for hunting. How have birds responded to this second dramatic invasion?
Boom and Bust is also a tool for understanding global change. How can Australians in the 21st century better understand how to continue to live in this land as its conditions are still dynamically unfolding in response to the major anthropogenic changes to the whole Earth system?
This interdisciplinary collection is written in a straightforward and accessible style. Many of the writers are practising field specialists, and have woven their personal field work into the stories they tell about the birds.- Short description
In Boom and Bust, the authors draw on the natural history of Australia's charismatic birds to explore the relations between fauna, people and environment in a continent where variability is 'normal' and rainfall patterns not always seasonal. They consider changing ideas about deserts and how these have helped us understand birds and their behaviour in this driest of continents.
"This book works on so many levels... a lovely and engaging book. It is truly a book about the complex and changing, yet ultimately powerful, relationships and networks between People and Birds."
Robert Lambert, Environment and History, May 2010
"It is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, a book on serious science written, one suspects, not just for the readers’ pleasure but the authors as well."
Stephen Garnett, EMU, Vol 110, 2010
"This is the kind of book which, packed with interesting facts and anecdotes as it is, would be good to sit down and read cover-to-cover."
Anne Goodenough, Bulletin of the British Ecological Society 2010, Vol 41:3
"It is a beautifully presented book, with each chapter featuring a careful illustration of the bird in question. Both attractive and entertaining, Boom and Bust will particularly appeal to ornithology enthusiasts…"
Ruth Morgan, Limina, 2010
"This book works on so many levels…a lovely and engaging book. It is truly a book about the complex and changing, yet ultimately powerful, relationships and networks between People and Birds."
Robert Lambert, Environment and History, Vol 16, No 2, May 2010
"Throughout the book the impact of human disturbance is considered alongside climatic factors in controlling the abundance and distribution of the birds. This gives the book an added dimension that might have been absent if the contributions of historian and anthropologist had been omitted. It is a truly multidisciplinary work…I have no hesitation in recommending it to critical readers as a very worthwhile publication."
Stephen J J F Davies, Pacific Conservation Biology, 2010
"The introductory chapter sets the scene for this fascinating and timely book about the adaptive behaviours of Australian birds to surviving in a boom or bust situation and the effect of human behaviour on this... I would highly recommend this book to members both as a gift and for personal use."
Yvonne Paterson, The Naturalist News, July 2009
"Anyone who seeks better to understand life in inland Australia needs to read this book - and it's no hardship!"
Ian Fraser, May 2009
"This book is a brilliant idea. To have someone like Rose writing alongside ornithologists, a philosopher, an archaeologist and so on, is a heady mix. As I read this fascinating book, I asked myself whether any one person could have written it... the diversity of views here is part of what makes this book exceptional…"
Tim Birkhead, IBIS, October 2009
"For a bit of pure scientific excitement the chapter by archaeologist Mike Smith on the extinct Genyornis is a great delight. The book is well worth the money in my opinion."
Rob Attwood, South Australian Ornithologist, Vol 35 No 7, November 2009
"...this beautifully bound anthology about the extraordinary, adaptive behaviours of several Australian birds flies the reader, effortlessly, into a world where historical and environmental context – and storytelling – matter... In a time of anthropogenic climate change, these 'bird stories', as a whole, elevate a changing history of ideas about environment, thus prioritising the ways cultural engagement with environment – inextricably bound to narrative – is under constant renegotiation, which is critical to both human and non-human survival in a dry land."
Deborah Anderson, Melbourne Historical Journal, Vol 37, 2009
"This book is an essential and timely work that helps the reader understand the Australian environment and how our indigenous birds and people have adapted to cope with its vagaries. We need to accept the reality that in much of Australia ‘drought’ is the norm, punctuated by occasional boom years, that our climate is highly variable and aseasonal, and that with climate change things may get worse. The book is a great catalyst for that mental transition, and is therefore highly recommended."
Stephen Debus, Australian Field Ornithology, Vol 26, 2009
"A refreshing strength is that these scientists and historians do not sacrifice the facts for the story or engage in the hyperbole that characterises so much magazine-style popularisation of science. The writing is engaging yet well referenced so that students inspired by the stories will find the book a springboard for new research projects….content rich yet friendly to read: at $39.95 a fair boom/bust ratio.”
Dr Richard Major, Explore, September – November 2009
"...a delightful set of ten natural history essays about birds written by ten different authors with varying backgrounds. The stories present an informed picture of contemporary Australian avi-fauna (with two exceptions on extinct birds) that is accessible to the general reader and engaging to read."
Paul Farber, Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol 20 No 2, 2009
"I highly recommend this book."
David Hair, Linnean Society of New South Wales Newsletter, No 132, October 2009
"This is a beautifully produced little hardback, with charming small black-and-white chapter heading illustrations taken from Gould (except of course for the Genyornis sketch), and it is a pleasure to handle and to read."
Marian Maddern, Park Watch, September 2009
"This fascinating book has something for all readers. I found many chapters were quite engaging, particularly those on Zebra Finches, Australian Pelican (always a fascinating bird to birdos) and especially the woodswallows. There are many new ideas or ways of looking at bird behaviour and their cycles which makes for lots of interesting reading. A well referenced book can be a delight to read and the current book does this superbly without interrupting the flow of ideas and text in each chapter. I can thoroughly recommend this book to both the general natural history reader and those in birding groups."
Martin O’Brien, The Bird Observer August 2009
“The presentation of the book is very simple and elegant. Despite being a hardcover it remains a very compact and portable volume, making it a perfect travelling companion to remote regions where conditions are unpredictable and cycle of boom and bust prevails. I am sure that anyone who reads this book will learn something new before putting it down.”
Mark Antos, The Victorian Naturalist, Vol. 126, June 2009
"This publication is another small but commendable step along the path towards achieving a widely held ecological understanding, and applying it to debates about the wise use of our dry continent."
Peter Menkhorst, Australian Book Review, June 2009
DetailsHardback | March 2009 | $ 39.95
ISBN: 9780643096066 | 312 pages | 195 x 130 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
ePDF | ISBN: 9780643097094
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
March 2009 | Available from
ePUB | ISBN: 9780643098671
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
March 2009 | Available from
- Fascinating stories of extraordinary adaptive behaviours in a range of bird species
- Leading writers draw on ideas in both science and the humanities to tell the stories of birds and people in the world’s driest inhabited continent
- Stories about environmental change – natural and cultural
- The responses in birds to the two great invasions of humans to Australia: 55 000 years ago and since 1788