Jonathan Meiburg (2016, 2017) is a returning Logan Nonfiction Program fellow. He’s an accomplished musician, having been a founding member of the rock band Okkervil River and leader of Shearwater, his critically acclaimed group that has recorded six albums, most recently for Sub Pop Records. Yet this multi-instrumentalist and composer also possesses a lesser-known identity as a natural history scholar, ornithologist and writer.
It is this side of Jonathan’s life that is on display in “A Most Remarkable Creature,” a book for Knopf about the South American members of the falcon family called caracaras that he will continue to work on during his fellowship. The book is both travel narrative and scientific inquiry, drawing on his research in Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Tierra del Fuego, and the Falklands. Meiburg isn’t a traditional birder; he doesn’t keep a life list. “But,” he writes, “like the caracaras themselves, I’m drawn to things I’ve never seen before, and when I first met them I was struck with a powerful feeling they aren’t just unusual birds, they’re unusual beings.”
In the caracaras, Jonathan sees a vehicle for telling a story of our species’ impact on South America by focusing on a group of odd, charismatic birds of prey and their ever-encroaching human neighbors.