The purpose of migration, regardless of the distance involved, is to exploit two or more environments suitable for survival or reproduction over time, usually on a seasonal basis. Yet individual organisms can practice the phenomenon differently, and birds deploy unique patterns of movement over particular segments of time. Incorporating the latest research on bird migration, this concise, critical assessment offers contemporary readers a firm grasp of what defines an avian migrant, how the organism came to be, what is known about its behavior, and how we can resolve its enduring mysteries.
John H. Rappole's sophisticated survey of field data clarifies key ecological, biological, physiological, navigational, and evolutionary concerns. He begins with the very first migrants, who traded a home environment of greater stability for one of greater seasonality, and uses the structure of the annual cycle to examine the difference between migratory birds and their resident counterparts. He ultimately connects these differences to evolutionary milestones that have shaped a migrant lifestyle through natural selection. Rather than catalogue and describe various aspects of bird migration, Rappole considers how the avian migrant fits within a larger ecological frame, enabling a richer understanding of the phenomenon and its critical role in sustaining a hospitable and productive environment. Rappole concludes with a focus on population biology and conservation across time periods, considering the link between bird migration and the spread of disease among birds and humans, and the effects of global warming on migrant breeding ranges, reaction norms, and macroecology.
John H. Rappole is research scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. He has been studying the ecology of migratory birds for four decades and has written more than 150 professional publications and thirteen books for both popular and professional audiences, including The Ecology of Migrant Birds and Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic.
"John Rappole has almost unparalleled experience studying migratory birds, having spent four decades studying the ecology of the Neartic-Neoptropical migration system. He is therefore extremely well-placed to provide his perspective on, as the book’s subtitle says, The Biology of Bird Migration. [...] this is a very well written and produced book that can’t fail to stimulate and educate anyone with an interest in bird migration who takes the time to read it."
– Chris Hewson, BTO book reviews
"This book is an important contribution to ongoing debates regarding migration, including the evolution of migration, the conservation of migratory birds, and the effect of migration on the life-history strategies of birds."
– Douglas Stotz, Field Museum of Natural History
"Not surprisingly, John H. Rappole's new book is the most comprehensive treatment of avian migration on the bookshelf, a culmination of his lifetime work. Anyone with an interest in birds will find The Avian Migrant easy to comprehend, and the professional will find the ideas presented forcefully and the coverage of little-known topics especially stimulating. Rappole pulls no punches, and his views are spelled out with uncommon clarity."
– Eugene S. Morton, Hemlock Hill Field Station
"There are many ways toward an understanding of the evolution of seasonal migration in birds. The Avian Migrant represents John H. Rappole's personal trail of intellectual discovery. The book takes us through a year in the life of a typical songbird migrant, signposting and critically evaluating models of explanation along the way. It is an engaging, well-written, and deep dialogue about what makes migrant birds tick."
– Theunis Piersma, University of Groningen
"readable, inspiring, and stimulating"
– Franz Bairlein, Science