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Good Reads  Ornithology  Biology, Ecology & Behaviour

Flight Paths How the Mystery of Bird Migration Was Solved

By: Rebecca Heisman(Author)
264 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Swift Press
Flight Paths
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  • Flight Paths ISBN: 9781800752948 Paperback Mar 2024 In stock
  • Flight Paths ISBN: 9781800752924 Hardback Apr 2023 In stock
Selected version: £16.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

How and why birds navigate the skies, travelling from continent to continent – flying thousands of miles across the earth each autumn and spring – has continually fascinated the human imagination, but only recently have we been able to fully understand these amazing journeys.

How did this revolution come about? Flight Paths is the never-before-told story of how an eccentric group of ornithologists, engineers and other pioneering scientists have harnessed nearly every technological development of the last hundred years to understand bird migration in detail – from where and when they take off, their flight paths and behaviours, their destinations and the challenges they face getting there.

In this fascinating and compelling story Rebecca Heisman uncovers the secret history of an ornithological arms race that not only helped solve the mystery of bird migration using radar, radioactive isotopes, satellites and the humble aluminium band but has also given us much needed insight into how best to protect and conserve the bird life we cherish.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Beautifully crafted synopsis of a fascinating subject
    By Alasdair 20 Oct 2023 Written for Hardback
    This title earns its stars for the engaging prose style and the lucidity with which the subject is presented. Taking a roughly chronological approach, the author covers highlights in the history of each method used to study bird migration, from “vis mig” through ringing, radar, terrestrial and satellite radio tracking to light level and GPS monitoring. She also deals with stable isotope analysis and genomic applications. Importantly, the text isn’t exclusively devoted to the “how” of studying migration, but also addresses the “why”, and in so doing argues the case for sustained effort in the field. IMO an exceptionally good primer, although perhaps of less interest to the trained or experienced ornithologist. The author draws very heavily on North American ornithology, with limited reference to work done in Europe and elsewhere, but I didn’t feel this significantly diminished the book’s impact. It deserves a wide readership amongst birdwatchers (as distinct from ornithologists) and anyone looking for an accessible introduction to the scientific study of bird migration.
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Rebecca Heisman is a science writer based in eastern Washington who loves nerding out about birds. She’s contributed to publications including Audubon Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Hakai Magazine, bioGraphic, Living Bird, and Bird Conservation. From 2015 to 2020, she worked for the American Ornithological Society (AOS), the world’s largest professional organization for bird scientists.

By: Rebecca Heisman(Author)
264 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Swift Press
Media reviews

"Understanding how, why and where birds migrate is about more than solving a mystery. It is critical for future conservation efforts [...] a vital wake-up call"
New Scientist

"Brings much needed insight into how best to protect and conserve the birds that visit our islands – and destinations far beyond"
National Geographic

"It's amazing how much effort it has taken to understand that birds migrate and where to [...] a fascinating account of discovery"
– Frans de Waal

"Reads like a cross between a great detective story and riveting science fiction, except that the science here is all fact. Migratory birds span the globe through incredible feats of navigation and endurance, and the researchers who have uncovered their secrets are just as fascinating as the birds themselves"
– Kenn Kaufman, author of the Kaufman Field Guide series

"Flight Paths is a delight, and the ground-breaking bird migration scientists whom Rebecca Heisman profiles in this fascinating book are a wonderfully unconventional lot. Heisman is the ideal guide to their world – curious, chatty, and adept at making sometimes complex research easily understandable"
– Scott Weidensaul, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Living on the Wind and A World on the Wing

"Heisman sends you aloft on warbler wings for an unforgettable journey through the world of avian migration. You'll meet beguiling birds and the people who study them, and you'll learn how bird-tracking technology has improved so that once-hazy maps now click into focus. An enthralling trip that'll leave you feeling inspired and connected"
– Rosemary Mosco, award-winning nature cartoonist, bird artist, and science book author

"I enjoyed Flight Paths. Beautifully written, thoroughly absorbing and enlightening, I thought it explained with admirable clarity and detail that most extraordinary of subjects"
– Lev Parikian, author of Taking Flight

"Flight Paths has plenty to interest a British reader [...] with the [author's] deft prose and careful elucidation, [Flight Paths] make these miracles of Nature easier for us to appreciate and understand"
– Stephen Moss, Country Life

"The enigma of bird migration has fascinated mankind since antiquity. Now, in a detective story more thrilling than any novel, Heisman pieces together all the scientific evidence [...] to unravel the mystery, destroying none of the magic"
– Rose Shepherd, Saga Magazine

"This fascinating book opens with a question: where do the birds go? [...] A great read, and hearing about some of the challenges people faced when pioneering some of these techniques certainly adds an extra level of appreciation to the already wondrous stories about bird's migratory feats. Indeed, I could easily have read more"
– British Trust for Ornithology

"As Rebecca Heisman reveals, much progress has been made, though many puzzles remain. Flight Paths provides an exciting, colourful and thought-provoking introduction to the subject"

"Flight Paths offers a breathtaking journey through the world of avian migration studies [...] fascinating look at how a disparate group of scientists, enthusiasts, birders and naturalists sought to understand the mechanics of avian long-haul flight [...] a lively, insightful and entertaining read which vividly brings out the personalities and the technologies invested in tracking avian movements, running alongside which is an autobiographical track that lightly reflects on the author's personal story, through career experience, cancer and COVID-19"
Birdwatch Magazine

"Rebecca Heisman presents an engaging and unashamedly focused book on the intricate science behind migratory bird tracking [...] Heisman has an engaging writing style and an obvious passion for the topic"
Geographical Magazine

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