Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pg. 69: "Silence of the Songbirds"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Bridget J. M. Stutchbury's Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World's Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them.

About the book, from the official website:
Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, Eastern Kingbird — migratory songbirds are disappearing at a frightening rate. By some estimates, we may already have lost almost half the songbirds that filled the skies only 40 years ago. Bridget Stutchbury, in a narrative as colourful as the creatures she studies, demonstrates why this decline should concern us all. The expert ornithologist and naturalist convincingly argues that songbirds truly are the canaries in the coal mine — except the coal mine looks a lot like Earth and we are the hapless excavators.

Following the birds on their 10,000-kilometre migratory journey, Stutchbury looks at the most threatening factors: pesticides, still a major concern decades after Rachel Carson first raised the alarm; the destruction of vital habitat, from the boreal forests of Canada to the tropical jungles of Brazil to the vast grasslands of Argentina; coffee plantations, which push birds out of their forest refuges so we can have our morning fix; the bright lights and structures in our cities, which prove a minefield for migrating birds; the notorious cowbirds that force songbirds to act as surrogate mothers to their own voracious young; and global warming. We may well wake up in the near future and hear no songbirds singing. We won’t only be missing their cheery calls, we’ll be missing a vital part of our ecosystem. Without songbirds, our forests face insect infestations, and our trees, flowers and gardens lose a crucial element in their reproductive cycle. What does this very real threat mean for our ecosystem, and ultimately, us?
Among the praise for Silence of the Songbirds:

"Silence of the Songbirds is wonderfully informative of beautiful little things. This book is a must-read for anyone whose heart has thrilled to the song of a bird."
--Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers and We Are the Weather Makers

"In Silence of the Songbirds, Dr. Bridget Stutchbury argues that when birds begin disappearing, we may be next. This is an important book both for its exploration of a very troubling reality as well as for the solutions that it offers to counteract the current state of affairs. It is also beautifully written. Dr. Stutchbury's obvious brilliance as a scientist is matched by her poet's heart."
--Béa Gonzalez, author of The Mapmaker’s Opera and The Bitter Taste of Time

"Few scientists know migratory birds as intimately as Bridget Stutchbury, who has followed them with wonder and passion from the jungles of Costa Rica and Belize to the hardwood forests of North America. In Silence of the Songbirds she lays out how these miraculous creatures live, why they are disappearing, and how each of us — by making choices as simple as what coffee we drink, what toilet paper we buy, or when we turn off the lights in our offices — can make the world safer for the birds that add such life and vitality to it."
--Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds and Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent’s Natural Soul

"Bridget Stutchbury is a leading authority on the science of migratory songbirds, but she understands the magic, too, and knows how to express it in clear, rich prose. Silence of the Songbirds has heart as well as brains, telling us not only what we risk losing but also why we should care."
--Kenn Kaufman, author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America

"Nearly half a century ago, Rachel Carson warned us of the grim plight of songbirds, sparking an uproar that led ultimately to the banning of DDT. In Silence of the Songbirds, Bridget Stutchbury makes clear that the dangers migratory songbirds face are greater than ever. Her book is an eloquent plea on behalf of songbirds, and also gives practical suggestions on things we can all do to help — for the good of the birds as well as the human race."
--Tim Gallagher, author of The Grail Bird

"Bridget Stutchbury takes us from the tropical forests of Panama to her farm in Pennsylvania, sharing her personal stories about birds as well as the latest scientific information explaining the disappearance of songbirds. The solutions would be a win-win-win for birds, people, and the environment. If you care about birds, you owe it to yourself — and to the birds — to read this eye-opening book."
--Miyoko Chu, author of Songbird Journeys

"An alarming, first-hand journey through the world of disappearing songbirds by a premier scientist. A must-read for anyone who cares about our planet and our place in it."
--Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds

"Bridget Stutchbury's writing draws us deeply into the personal lives of the birds, where little-known calls are pregnant with meaning. How joyful it is to learn such intimate and steamy details about the secret language of the birds."
--Lang Elliott, author of The Songs of Wild Birds

"A gripping revelation—both of the deeply fascinating biology of songbirds and the daunting challenges they face in a human-dominated world. Bridget Stutchbury makes it impossible to look at a songbird the same old way ever again. A joy for bird-watchers and non bird-watchers alike."
--Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the J. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

"Highly accessible and engaging, Silence of the Songbirds provides a unique glimpse into the biology and natural history of songbirds. Bridget Stutchbury argues forcefully for the beauty of these birds, the important ecosystem services these species provide, and the everyday things that citizens can do to help conserve them."
--Steven R. Beissinger, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of California, Berkeley

Read an excerpt from Silence of the Songbirds and learn more about the book and its author -- and listen to bird songs -- at the official website.

Bridget J. M. Stutchbury is professor of biology at York University.

The Page 69 Test: Silence of the Songbirds.

--Marshal Zeringue