Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: The Kirtland's Warbler

I just finished reading "The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It" by William Rapai and published by The University of Michigan Press. Normally I don't choose to read books like this because I fear that they will be depressing. I confess that when it comes to certain environmental concerns, I just want to plug my ears, close my eyes, and hope it goes away. I don't think I'm alone in feeling like this, though that train of thought is dangerous. Anyway, Rapai's writing is not depressing at all. The writing was fantastic! A page-turner for a historical narrative. Without shying away from the ugly side of conservation and the controversial issues, this book conveyed a lot of hope for the future of the Kirtland's Warbler. Rapai identifies late and modern day heroes. The history of the Kirtland's Warbler and all the characters around it are simply fascinating. This book is definitely worth the read.

I've been a long-time fan of the Brown-headed Cowbird and even wrote a sonnet in their honor. I wondered why so many birders hated them so much. Now, knowing the historical context of the cowbird versus the Kirtland's Warbler, my opinion has been swayed. I can't wait to see my first Kirtland's Warbler and I thank everyone mentioned in the book for their efforts in preserving this unique and awesome species.

This book is listed for $24.95 and is currently available online for $16.73.

The University of Michigan Press provided me a review copy of this book.


  1. The cowbirds are such a difficult subject. I think they're remarkable birds with a fascinating evolutionary adaptation in reproductive behavior...but they do so much damage. Of course, the ultimate cause of cowbird overpopulation is anthropogenic, as is the case with almost every long-term imbalance.
    I live in Michigan and get to see the cowbird control (which I won't spoil the book by discussing here). It makes you wish the bison were still passing through so the cowbirds could do their thing and roam with the herds.

  2. Thanks for the comment Kirby. That nesting adaptation of the cowbird is impressive, but its sad when it throws the rest of the ecosystem out of balance. Man-caused imbalance is what justifies the man-initiated effort to get back to balance. What a hard chore that must be!

  3. Come on out for Biggest Week next year and I think you just might get a Kirtland's!

    1. Seems like that warbler has been a celebrity a couple of times in recent years at events in that area.

  4. Great review. I share your thoughts on reading books that might throw me into a spiral of doom and gloom. It becomes more difficult everyday to avoid the peril of nature at the hands of man.

  5. I enjoyed your review Robert - wish I'd read it sooner, before yesterday's trip to Barnes and Noble. Now I'll have to make another...

  6. Sounds great. Thanks for the review!