By Jonathan Elphick with foreward by Malcolm Ogilvie. Published by The Natural History Museum 2007. 176 pages; numerous migration maps and illustrations and colour photographs. ISBN 13: 978 0 56509218 4, Hardback, £19.99
Review by Martin Birch
Uncover one of nature’s most awe-inspiring mysteries as this lavishly illustrated book reveals the amazing results of satellite tracking and worldwide banding. From high above the Himalayas to the arduous altitude of the Andes, the annual migration of many billions of birds constitutes one of the great wonders of the natural world. This new book features the world migration routes of over 600 species from both north and south of the equator. An international team of bird migration experts describe each route and how it is determined by the physical and behavioural characteristics of individual species.
Running to almost 200 pages with lavish illustrations and visually stunning migration maps this book is a joy to own. The introductory chapter covers subjects such as when to travel, flight power and speed, genetics, weather and climate and more, before leading you into the main material of the book – chapters covering each of the key migratory bird families for North America and Eurasia along with chapters for winter visitors from the far north, southern hemisphere migrants and my favourite, seabirds.
The book unravels the cause of the different wing shapes of a Reed Warbler and a Cetti’s Warbler, the changing nature of Blackcap migration and the reason for plumage variation in different populations of Snow Bunting. These are just some of the many gems hidden in the pages of the book. The editor, Jonathan Elphick, is to be congratulated on bringing a complex subject to life, in such an informative way.
There is still plenty for scientists to discover about bird migration. For many species, migration routes remain, at best, sketchy. Moreover, patterns of migration are changing as our climate changes.
This book is therefore an important contribution to expanding mankind’s knowledge of the annual feats of many billions of birds whose success is an important indicator of the health of our environment.
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