Barn Swallows, weighing less than a AA battery, travel from England to South Africa each winter, returning each spring. The Bar-tailed Godwit flies 7,000 miles from Alaska to New Zealand across open ocean in just nine days. Journeying from Scandinavia to Sub-Saharan Africa in three or four days, the Great Snipe reaches 60 miles per hour. An Arctic Tern might rack up 37,000 miles in a year.
Before the late nineteenth century, humans could not conceive of such journeys. People believed birds hibernated in crevices or in the mud of ponds — or changed into other species. Today, advanced technologies are revealing new details about bird migration, and the truth is astonishing.
In Flights of Passage: A Natural History of Bird Migration, to be published May 19 by Yale University Press, celebrated nature writer Mike Unwin and award-winning photographer David Tipling share the latest science and capture the absolute wonder of this phenomenon. Gorgeously illustrated and packed with information, the book illuminates the evolution of migration, the tools and methods birds use to accomplish their remarkable trips, and the reasons birds risk such perilous journeys. Focusing on 67 species, Unwin and Tipling make vivid the individual achievement of millions of feathered migrants and explore the obstacles and threats they face in their quests for survival.
The following slideshow features just a few of Tipling’s photos published in Flights of Passage.
Eiders taking flight at Varanger Fjord in Norway in March. Photo by David Tipling