Author(s): Leila Jeffreys
In Birdland, Australian fine-art photographer Leila Jeffreys presents us with a bird-watching experience like no other, drawing birds out from their leafy shadows and airy territories and presenting them to us with the skill and intricate detail of a portrait painter. The result is a stunning encounter with some of the world's most beautiful birds. On display are fine feathers of all types-eagles in burnished battle armor, fairy floss pink cockatoos, owls in spangled evening wear, and the finches and parrots who couldn't settle for just one or two colours, so chose the whole palette instead. Captured in a moment of stillness, Jeffreys's feathered sitters reveal qualities and features that invite human projection. Meet the sociable gang-gang cockatoos Commander and Mrs. Skyring, always up for a soiree; the dignified and kingly black kite Fenrick; and the adorably gamine Pepper, a southern boobook owl with impossibly huge eyes and irresistibly cute skinny legs. Sydney-based Jeffreys works with animal rescue and conservation groups to create her portraits. Her love and compassion for her subjects is evident throughout, and every bird has a story, which Jeffreys shares in a profile of nearly every species in the back of the book. There are working birds, like Soren, the wedge-tailed eagle, who patrols areas to prevent cockatoos from damaging buildings and lorikeets from overindulging on sugar on hotel balconies; Blue, the orange-bellied parrot who is part of a breeding program to increase the population of this critically endangered species; and Sirocco, New Zealand's kakapo conversation superstar. Birdland invites us to rediscover birds, to gaze unhindered, and to marvel at their many-splendored glory.
Leila's commitment to vulnerable creatures stems from her childhood. Born in Papua New Guinea to an Indian mother and a Manx father, Leila grew up communing with wildlife: rescuing an orphaned possum named Albert in Papua New Guinea; living in a small village in India surrounded by monkeys, mongoose and buffaloes; living on a houseboat in Kashmir watching kingfishers diving for their dinner; and taking classes alongside a resident giant spider in the school room. After her family moved to Australia, she and her father rescued birds and wildlife to nurse them back to health, and she credits her late father for her love of nature. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and son.