Gisela T. Kaplan & Lesley J. Rogers
Songs, Roars, and Rituals: Communication in Birds, Mammals, and Other Animals

Based on the title and cover, alone, I was really pumped to read this book. But the contents left me a bit disappointed as they aren't nearly as lively or exciting as I had imagined. The subject is an interesting one though, and I came away with a richer appreciation and awareness than I had prior to reading.

Songs, Roars, and Rituals includes more on animal communication than just sound. All senses are involved and explored to some extent including touch, smell, taste, and sight. I found the sections dealing with these other senses to be more interesting as, even though I was vaguely aware of them, I hadn't seriously considered the idea that they play such a major roll in communication processes.

The book, as a whole, is more of a summary of the work of others than a set of new ideas, insights, or findings of the authors with one or two minor exceptions relating to prior work/experiments by one of the authors. Perhaps this aspect caused some of the dullness. In any event, the continual calls for more research, observation, and experiments throughout the entire book became too much. I was left wondering why the authors, themselves, didn't answer their own calls and perform such work before writing the book.

The authors show an obvious bias that shouldn't exist if they were scientists first and animal lovers second. For instance, they state on page 69

The fact that language-like production of communication has not yet been found in animals tells us only that far too little research on natural communication has so far taken place--it does not tell us that it does not exist.
Actually, it tells us one or the other, not one and not the other. It tells us that it hasn't been found or that it doesn't exist, not that it exists and simply hasn't been found as implied. My final criticism is with regard to the many unreferenced claims which perhaps created "strawman" arguments in some instances.

The above criticisms aside, Songs, Roars, and Rituals is not without merit. It is a good starting place for someone interested in the subject. For me, it fostered a new, heightened sense of awareness to the sights and sounds of the creatures around me as I hike or bike through the forest or sit by my favorite duck pond and read. The bird calls now have more intentionality to them, rather than being "just" lovely backround "noise" as before.

from the publisher:
From the calling macaw and the roaring lion to the dancing lyrebird, animals all around us can be heard and seen communicating with each other and, occasionally, with us. Why they do so, what their utterances mean, and how much we know about them are the subject of Songs, Roars, and Rituals. This is a concise and very readable, yet comprehensive, introduction to the complexities of communication in animals.

Rogers and Kaplan take us on an exciting journey through communication in the animal world, offering insights on how animals communicate by sight, sound, smell, touch, and even electrical signaling. They explore a wide variety of communication patterns in many species of mammals and birds and discuss in detail how communication signals evolved, how they are learned, and what song and mimicry may mean.

An up-to-date account of the science of animal communication, this book also considers modern concepts (such as that of deceptive communication) and modern controversies, primarily those surrounding the evolution of human language and the use of symbolic language by apes. It concludes with a thought-provoking look at the future of communication between humans and animals.