Review: Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds

Scott Weidensaul (1999)
373 pages

As did Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire and Mike Tidwell in Bayou Farewell, author Scott Weidensaul focuses on an aspect of natural history to illuminate, educate and, most importantly, sound a warning call of an impending environmental disaster.

I’ve been fascinated by the phenomenon of bird migration for as long as I can remember, so I was extremely interested to read Living on the Wind, which focuses on migration in the Western Hemisphere. Weidensaul explains the how, where and why of migration in a manner that’s easy to understand and extremely readable. The book really picks up as the author travels to various migratory destinations (the Salton Sea, the Argentine pampas, Delaware Bay, and Dauphin Island on the Gulf coast, among others), relating the unique environmental characteristics and challenges each process.

The number of birds migrating each season is dwindling at an alarming rate. Human impact on the environment, primarily the loss of habitat, is greatly to blame. I was stunned to read that the most ominous prediction, as pointed out by Weidensaul, paints a future where one day bird species that have traveled the globe for thousands of years would cease to migrate altogether, a result of either adaptation or extinction. [**** out of 5]

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