Stutchbury, an avid bird researcher and biology professor at York University in Toronto, paints a complex picture of the current condition of songbirds and their habitats. The bad news is that songbird populations are decreasing alarmingly due to industrialization and development. In their tropical winter homes, habitat is shrinking and farmers routinely apply fatal amounts of pesticides. In songbirds' North American breeding grounds, invasive cowbirds sneak into their nests and replace songbird eggs with their own, house cats kill millions every year and logging threatens the birds' boreal forest homes. During their long, always treacherous migrations, they encounter many 21st-century perils: city lights that distract from guiding stars, and perilous radio towers and wind turbines. Songbirds control insects and helping plant propagation through pollination and seed spreading in many ecosystems. As they diminish in number, fragile environments may be "shaken to the core." The good news is that we can help the birds survive, by buying shade-grown coffee and turning out city lights at night, among other ways. Stutchbury's affection for the birds is contagious, and her humorous descriptions of their habits may inspire readers to listen for a cardinal's "cheer, cheer, birdy-birdy-birdy" or a barn owl's "WHO cooks for YOU?" (June)
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"We will unravel the mystery of the disappearing songbirds by taking a journey with them." Ornithologist Stutchbury so begins her exploration of the causes for the decline of migratory songbirds in the tropics, the wintering area for many of North America's birds. Migrants fit themselves into the local fauna, joining flocks or defending feeding territories until time to wing north for breeding. As the reader follows the birds, Stutchbury introduces the hazards they must face: fragmentation of habitat, which can range from simple road cuts to complete deforestation; replacement of natural vegetation with agricultural fields, typically "deserts" for birds; the ongoing problems with pesticides; light pollution, glass windows, communication towers, wind turbines, and other obstacles; and, finally, predators and introduced parasites, which have their greatest effect on the breeding grounds. She discusses the rapid decline of many songbird species and strategies for saving them. Stutchbury's colloquial writing style, bolstered with frequent references to her own and other scientists' research, makes complex population and ecological science easy to understand for the lay reader. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.