Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moonbird by Phillip Hoose

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." -- John Muir

A robin-sized shorebird that migrates approximately 18,000 miles every year is the subject of conservationist Phillip Hoose's Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. The rufa subspecies of red knot winters on the southern tip of South America and then travels all the way to the Canadian Arctic for the brief summer there. They accomplish this amazing feat every year, flying thousands of miles between feeding breaks.

One individual red knot has been tracked since he was first banded in Argentina in 1995. He was at least 3 years old then, so B95 is now about 20. In his lifetime, this 4-ounce athlete has flown the distance to the moon and halfway back!

In his book, Hoose notes that B95 was spotted as recently as November 25, 2011, in Argentina. After I finished Moonbird (which was published in 2012), I went online and found a New York Times story about B95. I was happy to learn that he was seen on the beaches of Delaware Bay in May 2012.

Environmental changes made by human activity along the migratory route threaten to wipe out the subspecies rufa entirely. "In 1995, scientists estimated there were about 150,000 rufa red knots in existence." Experts now believe that fewer than 25,000 remain.

Hoose documents a worldwide network of people who are working to save these birds. This makes Moonbird a more uplifting story than Hoose's The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (2004), which is about how the ivory-billed woodpecker became extinct.

If, like me, you've never before heard of red knots, you might like to see the photos from Moonbird that are on the Macmillan website. The engaging writing style, the focus on one "superbird" member of an endangered species, and the many colour photos and maps are elements that make Moonbird a winner. It has received numerous accolades, including the Green Earth Book Award. Grade 5 to adult.

You may also enjoy The Big Year (Mark Obmascik) and Wesley the Owl (Stacey O'Brien). If you want more books and films about birds, check out the titles on my list: True Stories of Fine Feathered Friends.

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