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Songbird Journeys

Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds
A new book by Miyoko Chu, science writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Listen to an interview with Miyoko Chu on NPR's All Things Considered.

"The most enjoyable blend of birding lore and ornithological knowledge I have read in 30 years of bird-watching...readers of Songbird Journeys can savor more avian pleasure than what's found on an entire shelf of standard birding books."--James F. McCarty, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Songbird Journeys pulls together in one readable book much of the latest research on the fascinating lives of the songbirds. Anyone who has been impressed or inspired by these tiny feathered jewels will be more so after reading this book."--David Allen Sibley


One of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife migrations passes unseen within hundreds of feet of our own neighborhood--the night flights of millions of songbirds. By dawn, these colorful migrants descend to our backyards, urban parks, and forests, either to replenish themselves for the rest of their trip or to settle in for the summer and raise their young.

Until recently, little was known about the lives of songbirds during their travels from autumn until spring. Aided by modern technology, however, scientists have documented mass migrations over the Gulf of Mexico, identified the voices of migrants in the night sky, and showed how songbirds navigate using stars, polarized light, and magnetic fields.

Miyoko Chu explores the intricacies underlying the ebb and flow of migration, the cycle of seasons, and the interconnectedness between distant places. Songbird Journeys pays homage to the wonder and beauty of songbirds while revealing the remarkable lives of migratory birds and the scientific quest to answer age-old questions about where songbirds go, how they get there, and what they do in the far-flung places they inhabit throughout the year.

Read reviews of Songbird Journeys

Listen to a radio interview with Celeste Quinn’s Afternoon Magazine, WILL-AM

Watch online as Miyoko shows bird slides and talks about migration during a Monday Night Seminar at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Songbird Journeys, published by Walker & Company, is available from Wild Birds Unlimited at Sapsucker Woods.

Want to know where migratory birds go? Visit the All About Birds online bird guide for range maps, photos, songs, and natural history information.

  • According to the U.S. Forest Service, 70 million Americans go out at least once a year to watch birds.
  • Almost half the 10,000 bird species on Earth are songbirds, including thrushes, swallows, warblers, sparrows, tanagers, blackbirds, finches, crows, and jays.
  • For migratory songbirds, life is short, and their journeys dangerous. For some songbirds, more than 85 percent of annual deaths occur during migration.
  • A thrush can travel 3,000 miles from Panama to Canada, its wings beating more than 600 times per minute or 3.2 million beats from start to finish. It averages about 158 miles per night of flight, expending just 0.3 calories per mile, including flights and stopovers.