Thursday, March 05, 2009

Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury

The annual spring bird migration is coming soon. Songbirds who have been wintering in Latin and South America will be returning to their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada. Their paths are dangerous, and every year fewer survive to raise their young. Since the 1960s, songbird populations have fallen by about half. In Silence of the Songbirds, ecologist Bridget Stutchbury explains the dire situation and why everyone (not only bird lovers) should care.

Silence of the Songbirds could be a very depressing book, but it is not. Stutchbury communicates her love of the birds and their lives throughout this report. She also suggests practical action that can be taken on an individual and societal level. and she tells good stories. Her account of songbird infidelity is quite entertaining. For birds, it makes sense to cheat.

Songbirds face dangers wherever they go. Habitat destruction is escalating in the tropics, where there is also an increase in the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, many of which are banned in the U.S. In the U.S. more areas are being turned back into woodland, but the areas are often too small to host viable populations. Work needs to be done on both ends and not just for the sake of the birds. Songbirds are needed to control insects in the forests of North America. Once the birds are gone, many species of trees will follow. The quality of life for humans will also decrease.

Read this book to prepare for the birding season. Silence of the Songbirds should go on display with field guides and bird behavior books.

Stutchbury, Bridget. Silence of the Songbirds. Walker, 2007. ISBN 9780802716095

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