Synopses & Reviews
Miyoko Chu is an ornithologist and staff science writer at the internationally recognized Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. She is editor of the Lab's Birdscope newsletter and assistant editor of Living Bird magazine. Chu earned a Ph.D. in integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where she provided insights on the enigmatic migratory behavior of a southwestern bird, the phainopepla. She lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband and two children. This is her first book. One of the world's most extraordinary wildlife migrations passes within hundred of feet of our own neighborhoodsthe biannual night flights of millions of songbirds. By dawn, these colorful migrants descend to our backyards, urban parks, and forests, either to replenish themselves for the rest of their trip or to settle in for the summer and raise their young. Songbird Journeys is the first book devoted to songbird migration. Until recently, little was known about the lives of songbirds during their autumn and spring travels or in their winter habitats. Aided by modern technology, however, scientists have documented mass migrations over the Gulf of Mexico, identified the voices of migrants in the night sky, and showed how songbirds navigate using stars, polarized light, and magnetic fields. Miyoko Chu explores the intricacies underlying the ebb and flow of migration, the cycle of seasons, and the interconnectedness between distant places. Songbird Journeys pays homage to the wonder and beauty of songbirds while revealing the remarkable lives of migratory birds and the scientific quest to answer age-old questions about where songbirds go, how they get there, and what they do in the far-flung places they inhabit throughout the year. Everyone interested in birds, and even people who know little about them, will enjoy Songbird Journeys because it allows you to experience birds. It is sprinkled with sparkling anecdotes that give visceral contact and meaning to the biology of one of the planets most epic marvelsmigration, much of which has been unraveled only in the last half century.”Bernd Heinrich, author of The Geese of Beaver Bog By mixing crisp writing with patient explanation, Miyoko Chu has produced something rarea book that offers something for both expert ornithologists and backyard bird lovers. Read Songbird Journeys and learn about the miracle of bird migration.”Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year In Songbird Journeys, Miyoko Chu captures both the sweep and the drama of bird migration, whether through the raw thrill of an airborne biologist following thrushes into the jaws of violent thunderstorms, or the patience of a scientist unraveling the winter life of a warbler in the tropics. And along with such compelling stories, Chu interleaves suggestions for how to enjoy the migration firsthandwhere to go, what to look for, even how to use weather radar to watch for clouds of migrant birds, or how to join a research project. Songbird Journeys is that rare book that mingles passion, beauty, and science into a surprising, fascinating whole.”Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind Songbird Journeys is one of the best bird books ever, filled with solid and current scientific information while beautifully expressing what it is about birds that touches our minds and hearts. A satisfying read on every level.”Laura Erickson, author of 101 Ways to Help Birds 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 ingenuitytrekking 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.”Publishers Weekly 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.”Booklist (starred review) Chu, an ornithologist, editor, and writer at Cornell Universitys Laboratory of Ornithology, writes engagingly of the epic and amazing seasonal migrations of American songbirds. Her lucid interpretation of related scientific research abounds with astonishing facts: for example, during their nonstop, 36-hour flight over the ocean, blackpoll warblers burn energy with an efficiency at the equivalent of 720,000 miles to the gallon. In addition to descriptions of the birds migrations, habits, and life histories for each season, there are details on hotspots for observing the birds, including web sites, addresses, when to go, and special activities. Helpful appendixes tell how to participate in various related citizen-science projects and include recommended sources (print and electronic), more on additional hotspots, and a description of the impressive scope and direction of the Cornell Laboratory. An excellent overview of a compelling subject; highly recommended.”Library Journal
Praise for Songbird Journeys:
"The most enjoyable blend of birding lore and ornithological knowledge I have read in 30 years of bird-watching...readers of Songbird Journeys can savor more avian pleasure than what's found on an entire shelf of standard birding books."--James F. McCarty, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Songbird Journeys pulls together in one readable book much of the latest research on the fascinating lives of the songbirds. Anyone who has been impressed or inspired by these tiny feathered jewels will be more so after reading this book."--David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds
"Whether or not you're aware of songbirds' exceptional lives of seasonal travel, Chu's book will both enlighten and delight."--Irene Wanner, Seattle Times
"Everyone interested in birds, and even people who know little about them, will enjoy Songbird Journeys."--Bernd Heinrich, author of The Geese of Beaver Bog
Until recently, little was known about the lives of songbirds during their travels from autumn until spring. Now scientists have documented mass migrations over the Gulf of Mexico, identified the voices of migrants in the night sky, and showed how songbirds navigate using stars, polarized light, and magnetic fields. Miyoko Chu explores the intricacies underlying the ebb and flow of migration, the cycle of seasons, and the interconnectedness between distant places. Songbird Journeys pays homage to the wonder and beauty of songbirds while revealing the remarkable lives of migratory birds and the scientific quest to answer age-old questions about where songbirds go, how they get there, and what they do in the far-flung places they inhabit throughout the year.
About the Author
Miyoko Chu is an ornithologist and science writer at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. She lives in Ithaca, New York.