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Seabirds evoke the spirit of the earth's wildest places. They spend large portions of their lives at sea, often far from land, and nest on beautiful and remote islands that humans rarely visit. Thanks to the development of increasingly sophisticated and miniaturized devices that can track their every movement and behaviour, it is now possible to observe the mysterious lives of these remarkable creatures as never before. This beautifully illustrated book takes you on a breathtaking journey around the globe to reveal where these birds actually go when they roam the sea, the tactics they employ to traverse vast tracts of ocean, the strategies they use to evade threats, and more.
Michael Brooke has visited every corner of the world in his lifelong pursuit of seabirds. Here, he draws on his own experiences and insights as well as the latest cutting-edge science to shed light on the elusive seafaring lives of albatrosses, frigatebirds, cormorants, and other ocean wanderers. Where do puffins go in the winter? How deep do penguins dive? How far away can an albatross spot a fishing vessel worth following for its next meal? Brooke addresses these and other questions in this delightful book. Along the way, he reveals that seabirds are not the aimless wind-tossed creatures they may appear to be, and explains the observational innovations that are driving this exciting area of research.
Featuring illustrations by renowned artist Bruce Pearson and packed with intriguing facts, Far from Land provides an extraordinary up-close look at the activities of seabirds.
A Personal Prelude ix
1 Introduction to the World’s Seabirds: Past Knowledge and New Revelations 1
2 Taking the Plunge: Seabirds’ First Journeys 28
3 The Meandering Years of Immaturity 42
4 Adult Migrations: 20,000 Leagues over the Sea 52
A Navigational Diversion 80
5 Tied to Home: Adult Movements during the Breeding Season 85
6 Wind and Waves: Friend and Foe 110
7 Stick or Twist? The Consistent Habits of Individuals 131
8 Where Seabirds Find Food 142
9 How Seabirds Catch Food 163
10 The Clash: Seabird Interactions with People –Past, Present& Future 180
List of Bird Species Mentioned and Their Scientific Names 211
Michael Brooke is the Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. He is the author of Albatrosses and Petrels across the World and the coeditor of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology, and has written widely on science and travel for outlets such as the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.
"Cutting-edge technology has at last enabled scientists to solve the riddle of what seabirds do in winter – far from the eyes of human observers. Michael Brooke writes with passion, humor, and a lifetime's experience, superbly evoking all the mystery and romance of these most alluring of birds."
– Katrina van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird
"For centuries, seafarers have marveled at the ability of seabirds to survive in some of the remotest of the world's oceans. How do these birds find their food? How do they migrate thousands of miles each year? What adaptations and strategies allow them to live in challenging marine environments around the world? These are just some of the questions Brooke answers in this insightful and compelling book."
– Dr. Eric Woehler, University of Tasmania
"An amazing journey over the horizon with one of our greatest seabird biologists. These new discoveries will be vital for conservation efforts to ensure we continue to share the seas with these magnificent ocean wanderers."
– Nick Davies, University of Cambridge
"Michael Brooke's eminently readable book simply and clearly explains how the digital revolution has transformed our knowledge of the once mysterious lives of seabirds at sea. I'm confident that this entertaining and wide-ranging book will appeal to a broad audience, from the lay public to seabird biologists."
– Peter Ryan, director of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town
"Knowledge about the lives of seabirds has taken a quantum leap in the past two decades, with technological advances providing details of seabird activity when they are far from land. Brooke's book engagingly discusses how these recent findings have transformed our understanding of seabird natural history."
– George Divoky, founder and director of Friends of Cooper Island
"Seabirds are foragers who venture to sea in search for food. Increasingly, we are learning about their quests thanks to exciting new methods like microelectronic biologging, which Michael Brooke summarizes beautifully in the context of seabirds' natural-history patterns."
– David G. Ainley, coeditor of Seabirds of the Farallon Islands
"This is among the best written popular science books on birds I have come across. Anyone interested in birds will enjoy Far from Land."
– Tim Birkhead, coauthor of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin
"A milestone that fills an important gap in the available literature on this rapidly expanding field."
– Christopher Perrins, editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Birds
"[...] This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in seabirds and tracking technologies. It provides a detailed and thoroughly referenced review of the knowledge these technologies have imparted, yet is written in an easily accessible, highly readable, style. At times, it does career though numerous different species to illustrate a point, which can be a little confusing, although understandable in the context. The book is packed with fascinating discoveries and revelations – just how and why penguins leap so suddenly from the water onto an ice shelf being one of my personal favourites. What we have learned to date from these relatively new technologies is astonishing; researchers are now able to tell, remotely, where a bird is, whether it is flying or swimming, how deep it is diving, whether (and when) it is eating and so on. The potential for future discoveries as technologies advance is truly exciting and I cannot wait for the sequel to this book in 20 years’ time. I would highly recommend Far From Land to anyone with an interest in the subject."
– Ruth Walker, BTO book reviews