- Angela Critics
Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose, is the story of an incredible bird, B95. Through his story, we learn about an amazing species of tiny shore bird, the Rufa Red Knot. The size of a robin, this bird has one of the longest distance migrations of any animal — more than 18,000 miles in a round trip. B95 has made that trip 20 times, flying the equivalent of the distance to the moon and halfway back, earning him the nickname Moonbird.
Moonbird's life began in a nest on the ground in Canada, north of the Arctic Circle. There he gorged on mosquitoes and spiders, building up fat stores for the first leg of his journey, a 1,500-mile flight to the Mingan Archipelago on the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. But that is just the beginning of his epic journey, a marathon that will take him to the southernmost tip of South America, only to turn around and fly back in a few months. On some legs of the trip he may fly more than 5,000 miles without stopping.
B95 was first banded in 1995. But the numbers of Rufa Red Knots have been dropping steeply since about the year 2000. In fact, the population has decreased about 80 percent during B95's lifetime, making his long life even more impressive. Why have so many of these shore birds died? In order to fly such incredible distances, they depend heavily on the food available at each stop. If they can't eat enough, they will not have enough energy to complete the next leg of their journeys. Changes to the environment in those locations can mean there is not enough food available for the birds. Efforts are being made to protect these sites, but the birds visit so many different places that it is very difficult to coordinate the projects. However people around the world are working to keep this remarkable bird from becoming extinct, and Hoose includes profiles of some of those individuals. Not all of them are scientists. Indeed, their ranks include a high school teacher in Argentina and a teenager who lives near the Delaware Bay. Feeling inspired to join the conservation efforts? Check out the appendix that lists things people of any age can do.
Hoose's storytelling brings B95 to life for readers in a way that makes them care about Moonbird as much as any character in a fictional book. They can be swept up in the story as surely as in any novel, while being left with an admiration for this plucky species and a greater understanding of the environmental issues that threaten its survival. If the story of this incredible shore bird sparks your interest in endangered bird species, be sure to check out Phillip Hoose's book about the ivory-billed woodpecker, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird.