Seabirds evoke the spirit of the earth's wildest places. They spend large portions of their lives at sea, often far from land, and nest on beautiful and remote islands that humans rarely visit. Thanks to the development of increasingly sophisticated and miniaturized devices that can track their every movement and behaviour, it is now possible to observe the mysterious lives of these remarkable creatures as never before. This beautifully illustrated book takes you on a breathtaking journey around the globe to reveal where these birds actually go when they roam the sea, the tactics they employ to traverse vast tracts of ocean, the strategies they use to evade threats, and more.
Michael Brooke has visited every corner of the world in his lifelong pursuit of seabirds. Here, he draws on his own experiences and insights as well as the latest cutting-edge science to shed light on the elusive seafaring lives of albatrosses, frigatebirds, cormorants, and other ocean wanderers. Where do puffins go in the winter? How deep do penguins dive? How far away can an albatross spot a fishing vessel worth following for its next meal? Brooke addresses these and other questions in this delightful book. Along the way, he reveals that seabirds are not the aimless wind-tossed creatures they may appear to be, and explains the observational innovations that are driving this exciting area of research.
Featuring illustrations by renowned artist Bruce Pearson and packed with intriguing facts, Far from Land provides an extraordinary up-close look at the activities of seabirds.
A Personal Prelude ix
1 Introduction to the World’s Seabirds: Past Knowledge and New Revelations 1
2 Taking the Plunge: Seabirds’ First Journeys 28
3 The Meandering Years of Immaturity 42
4 Adult Migrations: 20,000 Leagues over the Sea 52
A Navigational Diversion 80
5 Tied to Home: Adult Movements during the Breeding Season 85
6 Wind and Waves: Friend and Foe 110
7 Stick or Twist? The Consistent Habits of Individuals 131
8 Where Seabirds Find Food 142
9 How Seabirds Catch Food 163
10 The Clash: Seabird Interactions with People –Past, Present& Future 180
List of Bird Species Mentioned and Their Scientific Names 211
Michael Brooke is the Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. He is the author of Albatrosses and Petrels across the World and the coeditor of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology, and has written widely on science and travel for outlets such as the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.
– Awarded joint third place in the BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year 2018 competition
"His tour of the ecological highlights is gripping in scope and in granular detail gleaned from observations of puffins, penguins, fulmars and more."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"This is a celebration of nature writing, scientific research and the wonder of birds, large and small, that glide, flap and flutter across the world's oceans."
– Tim Birkhead, Times Literary Supplement
"Brooke's storytelling skills are first rate, and artist Bruce Pearson's illustrations only further the mesmerizing quality of this project."
– Foreword Reviews
"[Brooke] shares his encyclopedic knowledge with dry wit and fine attention to detail in this absorbing book [...] His enthusiasm is so infectious that Far from Land is bound to hatch some much-needed new devotees."
– Adrian Barnett, New Scientist
"If you thought you knew all about seabirds, then think again. This book is absolutely packed with new information."
– John Miles, Bird Watching Magazine
"Written with passion and knowledge in equal doses. It is beautifully written, immediately captures interest, is erudite, avoids jargon, and is entertaining with a fair peppering of humour [...] I cannot think of one good reason why any seabirder – field birders and researchers alike – would want to skip this book. Buy it."
– Bob Flood, Birdwatch Magazine"
[A] marvellous new study."
– John Burnside, New Statesman
"A thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating survey of the world of seabirds – made all the more enjoyable by Bruce Pearson's lovely pen-and-wash illustrations."
– Nigel Andrew, Literary Review
"The most up-to-date picture of how seabirds behave when we aren't watching [...] Beautifully written."
– Joe Culley, Irish Times
"In a very approachable and often dazzling book, Michael Brooke blends the seemingly incompatible worlds of romance and science. The book almost reads like a collection of fairy tales, stories from lands far away of almost-mythical creatures."
– Mihai Andrei, ZME Science
"As an all-encompassing look at the lives of all sort of seabirds, this book would be hard to beat [...] a must-have book for anyone with an interest in the most mysterious of all birds."
– Matt Merritt, Bird Watching Magazine
"Michael Brooke has drawn on his knowledge of current science to give a timely summary of research so far and a brilliant global overview of seabird behaviour."
– Kenny Taylor, BBC Wildlife Magazine
"To read it is like encountering a new and unknown blue planet for the first time [...] How much better to live now when the world of seabirds, even far from land, is chronicled in such magnificent detail by scientists such as Brooke."
– Matt Ridley, The Times
"A magical tour of every ocean and some of the remotest locations on the planet through the lives of seabirds [...] The potential for future discoveries as technologies advance is truly exciting and I cannot wait for the sequel to this book in 20 years' time."
– Ruth Walker, British Trust for Ornithology
"Michael Brooke's book, Far From Land, provides an entertaining and highly digestible account of what we have learnt from the past three decades of seabird tracking research, and what we have learnt is nothing short of staggering [...] It is well written, tripping along at a nice pace, and should keep anyone with an interest in marine biology or ornithology entertained."
– Stephen Votier, Current Biology Magazine
"An impressive global overview of impressive modern research into what proves to be even more impressive seabirds [...] Altogether a well-written, finely illustrated, instructively mapped book."
– Richard Sherley, Seabird
"This is a relatively slim volume, but one that is absolutely packed with information and all conveyed in an engaging and often witty style."
– Andrew Bielinski, Scottish Birds
"Cutting-edge technology has at last enabled scientists to solve the riddle of what seabirds do in winter – far from the eyes of human observers. Michael Brooke writes with passion, humor, and a lifetime's experience, superbly evoking all the mystery and romance of these most alluring of birds."
– Katrina van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird
"For centuries, seafarers have marveled at the ability of seabirds to survive in some of the remotest of the world's oceans. How do these birds find their food? How do they migrate thousands of miles each year? What adaptations and strategies allow them to live in challenging marine environments around the world? These are just some of the questions Brooke answers in this insightful and compelling book."
– Dr. Eric Woehler, University of Tasmania
"An amazing journey over the horizon with one of our greatest seabird biologists. These new discoveries will be vital for conservation efforts to ensure we continue to share the seas with these magnificent ocean wanderers."
– Nick Davies, University of Cambridge
"Michael Brooke's eminently readable book simply and clearly explains how the digital revolution has transformed our knowledge of the once mysterious lives of seabirds at sea. I'm confident that this entertaining and wide-ranging book will appeal to a broad audience, from the lay public to seabird biologists."
– Peter Ryan, director of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town
"Knowledge about the lives of seabirds has taken a quantum leap in the past two decades, with technological advances providing details of seabird activity when they are far from land. Brooke's book engagingly discusses how these recent findings have transformed our understanding of seabird natural history."
– George Divoky, founder and director of Friends of Cooper Island
"Seabirds are foragers who venture to sea in search for food. Increasingly, we are learning about their quests thanks to exciting new methods like microelectronic biologging, which Michael Brooke summarizes beautifully in the context of seabirds' natural-history patterns."
– David G. Ainley, coeditor of Seabirds of the Farallon Islands
"This is among the best written popular science books on birds I have come across. Anyone interested in birds will enjoy Far from Land."
– Tim Birkhead, coauthor of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin
"A milestone that fills an important gap in the available literature on this rapidly expanding field."
– Christopher Perrins, editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Birds