Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95

July 2012. 148p. 978-0-37430-468-3. 21.99.
Gr 6 Up–Moonbird is a nickname scientists have given to a small Eastern shorebird known for both his unusually long life and his enormously long annual migration. Hoose intertwines the story of this bird’s remarkable survival with detailed accounts of the rufa red knot’s physical changes through its yearlong cycle of migrating from the bottom of the world (usually Tierra del Fuego) to its Arctic breeding grounds and back again at summer’s end–a round trip of some 18,000 miles. Moonbird, known usually by the identifying label “B95” on his orange leg band, was first banded in 1995, when it was thought that he was at least three years old, and Hoose notes sightings of him through early 2011 just as the book was reaching completion. At that point it was estimated that over 20 years’ time, B95 had flown “more than 325,000 miles in his life–the distance to the moon and nearly halfway back.” The feat is particularly celebrated among bird scientists because this species is rapidly declining as humans use and misuse its feeding grounds and food supply. The threatened state of the species and the personal work being done by scientists and conservationists are strong themes throughout the book. Hoose describes his own experiences participating in study trips and introduces children and teens engaged in study, conservation, and lobbying projects in Canada, the United States, and Argentina. This deeply researched, engaging account is a substantial and well-designed package of information illustrated with handsome color photographs, ample maps, appended descriptions of the conservation work, and thorough source notes.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Flying nearly from pole to pole twice a year, one robin-sized rufa red knot known as "Moonbird" has flown some 325,000 miles over a twenty-year lifespan. In lucid, graceful prose, Hoose details the birds' characteristics, profiles scientists and activist kids, and takes a sobering look at long-term prospects for survival. Glorious full-page and smaller photographs alternate with helpful maps in an informative progression of images. Bib., ind.
He's called "Moonbird" because, over a lifespan of twenty years, he's flown some 325,000 miles, the distance to the moon and almost halfway back. This robin-sized red knot (subspecies rufa), a shorebird, is in southern Argentina from October to February and in the Arctic, breeding, for a few summer weeks; between times, his great migrating flock is like a "constantly shifting organism -- now a ball, now a rippling blanket" as the birds fly nearly from pole to pole twice a year. Stops are few but strategic; after thousands of miles it's essential to bulk up with what's available at the same few sites each year: mosquito larvae, mussels, horseshoe crab eggs. Thanks to banding and photography by scientists, who call him B95, sightings are documented since 1995 (when adult plumage indicated B95's age to be at least three years). Even for his species, B95 is extraordinary -- "one of the world's premier athletes" -- but Hoose's fascinating account concerns much more than this one bird. In lucid, graceful prose, Hoose details the red knots' characteristics and strategies, sampling far-flung challenges to their survival (e.g., fishermen harvesting horseshoe crabs in crucial stopover Delaware Bay). He describes research methods (cannon nets, banding), profiles scientists in international cooperation as well as activist kids, and takes a sobering look at longterm prospects for survival not just of the rufa but of most species on earth. Glorious full-page color photographs alternate with excellent smaller photos (including one of B95 taken on November 25, 2011) and many good, helpful maps in a highly informative progression of images. Exemplary source notes, including many interviews, plus acknowledgments and picture credits; a bibliography; and an index. joanna rudge long

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