SOCIAL SCIENCES

Flight Lines: Across the Globe on a Journey with the Astonishing Ultramarathon Birds

Pegasus. Nov. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781643135762. $27.95. TRAV
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Darby (Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling) decided to follow the annual migration of his favorite shorebirds, Grey Plovers. In the autumn, they leave the Gulf of St. Vincent, Australia; feed in Indonesia; pass the Yellow Sea and Siberia before landing in the Arctic for breeding. They travel when there are favorable winds. The first leg of the trip covers 7,000 kilometers nonstop. The birds navigate using cells in their eyes that sense Earth’s magnetic field. Later they do the trip in reverse. Darby quotes scientists, hobbyists, and Indigenous peoples while exhilarating descriptions create beautiful imagery. When the plovers headed for the Yellow Sea, Darby learned he had incurable lung cancer. Eight months after his diagnosis, he felt well enough to undertake part of the trip. Thereafter, he tells parallel stories of his fight, and the birds’ flights. He also shares that in 2019, a UNESCO committee concluded that about one million animal and plant species face extinction. Since shorebirds are international, they offer a possibility of globalization during these difficult times.
VERDICT Bird and nature lovers will be enthralled.

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