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Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons In the Lives of Migratory Birds Hardcover – March 7, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714688
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Each spring, millions of orioles, tanagers, thrushes, warblers and other songbirds travel thousands of miles from the tropics to their summer breeding grounds as far north as the boreal forests of Canada and in the fall return to their southern wintering grounds. Navigating by the stars, magnetic fields and polarized light patterns invisible to humans, the birds make their amazing journeys at night, flying in huge flocks that most of us never see. In this captivating debut, Chu, an ornithologist at Cornell, conveys the wonder of these migrations, following the birds through all four seasons and chronicling the efforts of scientists to track them with technology and their own ingenuity—trekking to distant locales, some even following, in cars and airplanes, individual birds outfitted with transmitters. Their heroic efforts are important, Chu points out, for only by understanding where the birds go can we learn how to preserve their habitats. To engage the general public in these efforts, she includes information on the best places to observe migrating birds and provides lists of citizen-science projects and resources for amateurs birders who want to contribute to the growing base of knowledge about bird migration. 8 pages of color illus. not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The wonder of bird migration has puzzled humans for centuries. Literally millions of birds all over the world make seasonal movements to and from their breeding grounds, some traveling a short distance while others fly thousands of miles. Our most familiar birds are the songbirds, whom we know well while they visit during the breeding season. But what is known about their lives during the majority of the year, when they are either traveling or on their wintering grounds? Chu, an ornithologist and science writer for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, has written an impressive introduction to the study of birds on the move. Following the birds through the four seasons, she begins with spring as birds leave the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula for a nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Summer finds birds busily nesting and feeding young on the abundant food resources that are the ultimate reason for their migration. In autumn the reverse of the spring migration occurs, albeit more protracted as individual species finish breeding and go. In winter the birds have reinserted themselves into their off-season habitat, where they interact with an entirely different group of species from their summer neighbors. Chu examines the science of studying migration and peppers the text with anecdotes from field researchers. Each seasonal section ends with a list of hot spots for observing the birds in that phase of the cycle. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Chu is good at explaining bird studies in an interesting way that makes it available and understandable by non-scientists.
Brian Allen
The book is, however, pleasantly optimistic in asserting that more information will find better answers, and suggesting that any reader might participate.
R. Hardy
I highly recommend this book, especially for teachers who need a good discussion book for high school or college-aged biology and ornithology students.
Casey Tucker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on March 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A description of research on bird migration, some of the hazards that migrating birds face, and ways that people can see them and become involved in civilian research projects.

Not as well-written as Weidensaul's LIVING ON THE WIND, which this book strangely does not cite, this is still an informative and readable work. I wish it, and so many other bird books, was not so focused on the eastern United States -- not only does it give me serious fallout envy but I'd like more information on California migrant birds. However, I found the information on specific reserves and websites very useful and practical, although probably the URLs will tend to become invalid as the book ages.

I was annoyed by the lack of decent color photographs. A book on some of the most beautiful creatures in the world should be able to do better than a few drawings apparently scanned from a Peterson guide, and an old one at that.

Recommended, though alongside LIVING ON THE WIND and other books rather than as a replacement for them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Murphy's Mom on July 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll keep this brief. This is a terrific book! It is very readable (on layman's level), and chock full of interesting facts, tidbits and research results. I found myself reading parts of it aloud to my partner. I am involved in songbird rehab, and was amazed to learn that "Woods", a brown thrasher and our latest release, would ultimately develop a song list numbering close to 2,000! (We "talked" in "Robin", since Woods was raised alongside a baby robin).

I am recommending "Songbird Journeys" to all my friends who love wild birds and Nature in general.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Casey Tucker on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Miyoko Chu's "Songbird Journeys" is one of the most fascinating accounts of how researchers and birders have been and are studying bird migration. She deftly blends story-telling and science to present snapshots of different species and what we are learning about them. She has the amazing ability of making you feel like you're there, standing shoulder to shoulder with these researchers, as they radio-track thrushes from an old beat up car or a small airplane in rough weather, or standing on an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf as thousands upon thousands of warblers drop, exhausted, on the deck of the rig, or fly by within feet of you only to be blown back out to sea.

The stories and information that she presents is not only informative, but useful as well. She includes tips on how anyone can get involved in monitoring birds regardless of whether it's in their own backyard or local natural area.

The only drawback to Ms. Chu's book is that there is no explanation of how migration has evolved in birds, but I'm sure there are other texts out there that address this issue.

I highly recommend this book, especially for teachers who need a good discussion book for high school or college-aged biology and ornithology students.

I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Evans on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very informative but written in a documentary style so don't think you'll be sitting down for a leisurely read. This is heavy stuff if you love songbirds. Fifty percent of all songbirds die each year, most during migration - the rest through habitat loss, predators, etc. That's the heavy stuff; but you'll learn so much about their songs, survival techniques, and so on. Extremely interesting but not an easy read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Rhoads on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was a pure delight to read. I feel confident in saying that this book would be an easy read for even someone who knows almost nothing about birds, due to its clear storytelling, examples and fascinating facts.

Chu goes through the four seasons of the lives of a number of birds that spend at least some of their time in North America, telling us anecdotes about tracking and observing them, with doses of whimsy and child-like awe for good measure. She also tells of some of the more exciting places to go to see migrants for yourself.

And while she writes about this to alert the general public about the dramatic declines of migrant songbird populations througout North America in recent decades, she does so by inspiring wonder and hope - a much better combination than fear and alarmism.

Simply put, this book helped give my fascination for birds a newly informed perspective, helping me to care about birds and appreciate them all the more.
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Format: Hardcover
If you don't want to plough through the latest research on birds to gain insights into what's being discovered about their habits, then SONGBIRD JOURNEYS: FOUR SEASONS IN THE LIVES OF MIGRATORY BIRDS is for you. It comes for a Cornell Lab ornithologist and science writer who surveys songbird migratory habits and winter locations, using the four seasons as a foundation for exploration. While much research is reflected in SONGBIRD JOURNEYS, the tone is easy for non-scientists to absorb, and any with a love of birds will find it most accessible.

Diane C. Donovan, Editor

California Bookwatch
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Birds are so all around us, it is not surprising that we might take them for granted, especially the songbirds that can be found in any backyard or feeder. Almost half the 10,000 species of birds on Earth are songbirds, the jays, larks, swallows, wrens, warblers, and others which have complex voiceboxes. They may be commonplace, but that does not mean that we know all there is about them. Many of them have complicated migration routes and behaviors that ornithologists have only in the past decades come to understand. The migratory songbirds of the Americas are covered in _Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds_ (Walker Books) by Miyoko Chu. Ornithologists say that most of the birds of North America evolved over many millennia in the tropics and gradually pushed their boundaries northwards. Some came and stayed, and others developed the pattern of coming north in the warmer months to take advantage of the food supply and to bring forth the next generation before returning to warmer climes for the winter. There are literally billions of birds involved in this passage, but capacity to track them has been technologically available only in recent years, and Chu, an ornithologist at the renowned Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, brings readers up to date with scientific news about a remarkable research frontier.

As fascinated as humans have always been by birds, there were limits of perception in tracking the migrants. Chu gives a brief history of how hard it was to track these birds that do most of their travel at night before they could be seen on radar. Of course, tracking with radar required correlation with ground observations, and observers have a lot of work during the weeks that birds stream in to regions like our Gulf Coast.
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