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Short film highlights migratory birds and their champions

An American Redstart sits in a researcher’s grip in this image from “The Fight for Flight.” Photo courtesy Fauna Creative

A new independent short film highlights the spring and fall migrations of birds through the Great Lakes region and tells stories of people who interact with them and work to protect them. “The Fight for Flight” is a gorgeous film featuring videos of warblers, flycatchers, pelicans, and many other birds.

It’s only about 16 minutes in length, but it packs serious subjects into its brief runtime.

Mike Grimm, a conservation ecologist with The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, describes the basics of bird migration — from the tropics to northern breeding grounds. And he brings a gravitas to the film’s message, saying:

“These lands and these species: There’s a moral responsibility to take care of them, to be concerned about their quality, about their future. There’s a lot of beauty in these woods, and I hope that my great-great grandchildren can experience the same thing that I do today.”


In the next segment, we meet Anna Buckardt-Thomas, a research assistant at the University of Maine who is looking for banded Golden-winged Warblers in a boggy woodland in northern Wisconsin. She describes how researchers can track small birds with light-level geolocators – tiny devices that can be attached to the backs of songbirds. In the last decade or so, they have revealed extraordinary new insights into the migratory habits and routes of birds.

The filmmakers also interview Heidi Trudell, a coordinator with Washtenaw Safe Passage, a group in southeastern Michigan that works to prevent unintended bird mortality, especially from window strikes. While she speaks, we watch her work with a photographer to shoot images of dead birds that died after hitting windows.

Viewers then hear from Andrea Aiuto, a manager for the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, a wildlife rehabilitation clinic that takes care of 1,200 to 1,300 birds per year. She discusses the variety of ways birds can become injured — striking windows, being caught by cats — and says it’s “a hard job, a stressful job” to try to help them. The reward is when rehabilitated birds are released.


Co-producer Jason Whalen, a filmmaker with Grand Rapids-based Fauna Creative, says he and his team made the film because most people don’t pay attention to migratory birds.

“If you’re not looking for signs of this migration, you’ll never know it’s happening,” he says. “With this film, we wanted to put a spotlight on the birds making the journey that are stopping in our own backyards. We wanted to give a platform to those who are unlocking the mysteries of migration and working toward the sustainable future for these species.”

“The Fight for Flight” has been well-received since it debuted in late 2018. It was an official selection at the Fresh Coast Film Festival in Marquette, Michigan, in October, and at the Thunder Bay International Film Festival, in Alpena, Michigan, last weekend.

Watch the film


The Fight For Flight from Fauna Creative on Vimeo.

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at [email protected].

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