Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Wednesday 29 August 2012


Front cover of Birds of Lore (© Ryan Durney)

World mythology is brimming with legendary, fabulous birds and other avian entities of every conceivable kind, of which a few have become globally famous, such as the roc or rukh, the phoenix, the harpy, the simurgh, Garuda, and the Chinese feng-huang. The vast majority, conversely, have attracted far less attention, and in many cases have never even been the subjects of noteworthy illustrations.

Mboi tui (© Audrey Durney)

Happily, however, this sad situation is soon to change – thanks to a truly spectacular multi-contributor art project entitled Birds of Lore. It was conceived by award-winning, full-time freelance illustrator Ryan Durney from Austin, Texas, who has teamed up with his wife Audrey (also a degree-accredited, working illustrator) and a host of highly-talented guest artists, all of whom share a common desire to create, quite simply, the finest, most sumptuous bestiary of birds ever produced. And judging from the samples of their work from this major project that I have seen so far – a selection of which Ryan has very kindly permitted me to reproduce exclusively here in ShukerNature (thanks, Ryan!) – they are well on their way to accomplishing this heady goal.

Cu bird (© Audrey Durney)

Birds of Lore is being produced via the Kickstarter crowdfunding model (click http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2131320650/birds-of-lore for full details, including video interviews with its creators and samples of their exquisite artwork for it, and also if you wish to contribute financially to its creation), and its central theme is an extremely original, compelling one.

Kinnaree (© Wednesday Kirwan)

The book's narrator is a mystery-enshrouded figure known only as 'The Mythologist', who scours the world in search of every mythological bird or feathered entity ever reported. During his search, he describes each one via a short story that also contains all of the information on record concerning it.

The Chakora birds (© Ryan Durney)

However, he is frequently surprised to discover that these exotic species are not always as he had assumed them to be from their documented lore, and he often finds himself threatened by ferocious avian monsters. Fortunately, balancing out those dangers, he is sometimes lured by beautiful birds into other dimensions (some investigators have all the luck!).

The last harpy (© Ryan Durney)

From the last harpy (no longer bloodthirsty but now the melancholy prisoner of a royal family), and the wing-eared wila of Polish folklore (revealed to be a scornful force of Nature), to the peacock demon of Sri Lanka (inspired, incidentally, by my very own wall mask of this particular entity – click here to see it), and the tiny but decidedly creepy Chakora birds of Hindu legend that dwell in a pocket dimension, there can be no doubt that Birds of Lore will be the definitive illustrated work on mythological birds.

Sri Lankan peacock demon (© David Jernigan)

And thanks to Ryan recently encountering my ShukerNature post regarding it (click here) via a Mysterious Universe podcast, even Britain's extraordinary bat-winged monkey-bird is included – and here's Ryan's vibrant illustration:

Bat-winged monkey-bird (© Ryan Durney)

Moreover, Ryan has told me that he sees Birds of Lore as an extraordinarily beautiful work of art in its own right that he hopes everyone will want to keep on their bookshelf for a lifetime.

A spread of illustrated text from Birds of Lore (© Ryan Turney)

If it fulfils the promise shown by the exquisite examples from its pages included here, I for one will definitely retain it on mine, quite possibly under lock and key, to ensure no-one ever removes it from my sight!

Wila (© Ryan Durney)

As noted earlier, if you wish to contribute financially to the production of this stunning publication, and obtain all manner of exclusive rewards in return, please click here – but time is running out, so do it now, before this unique opportunity to become a part of Birds of Lore is gone forever!

Hercinia (© Audrey Durney)

And while you're reading through the updates re Birds of Lore there, I'd just like to mention that the final update, to be posted in a few days time, is a surprise pop-reference/myth cross-over. I'll just say two words: winged turtle – and leave you to guess the rest!

Jingwei (© Socar Myles)

Please note: all illustrations included in this ShukerNature post are © Birds of Lore, and must NOT be reproduced anywhere without written permission from Ryan Durney.

The wila's leonine companion (© Ryan Durney)

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