Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with
the Great Survivor B95
by Phillip Hoose
Intermediate, Middle School, High School
Farrar 148 pp. 7/12 978-0-374-30468-3 $21.99
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.