Cover image for Where have all the birds gone? : essays on the biology and conservation of birds that migrate to the American tropics
Where have all the birds gone? : essays on the biology and conservation of birds that migrate to the American tropics
Terborgh, John, 1936-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
xvi, 207 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes indexes.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL698.9 .T44 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"Things are going wrong with our environment," writes John Terborgh, "even the parts of it that are nominally protected. If we wait until all the answers are in, we may find ourselves in a much worse predicament than if we had taken notice of the problem earlier. By waiting, one risks being too late; on the other hand, there can be no such thing as being too early." Terborgh's warnings are essential reading for all who care about migratory birds and our natural environment. Why are tropical migrant species disappearing from our forests? Can we save the birds that are left? Terborgh takes a more comprehensive view of migratory birds than is usual--by asking how they spend their lives during the half-year they reside in the tropics. By scrutinizing ill-planned urban and suburban development in the United States and the tropical deforestation of Central and South America, he summarizes our knowledge of the subtle combination of circumstances that is devastating our bird populations. This work is pervaded by Terborgh's love for the thrushes, warblers, vireos, cuckoos, flycatchers, and tanagers that inhabited his family's woodland acreage while he was growing upbirds that no longer live there, in spite of the preservation of those same woods as part of a county park. The book is a tour of topics as varied as ecological monitoring, the plight of the Chesapeake wetlands, the survival struggle of Central American subsistence farmers, and the management of commercial forests.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

During recent decades, there have been dramatic declines of bird populations in North America. Noted ecologist Terborgh examines the multiple causes of the declines, from losses of waterfowl on Chesapeake Bay to the missing songbirds of forests. The mystery of the declines is carefully reviewed using a wide variety of data from the Christmas bird counts of amateurs to decades-long ecological monitoring by biologists. All the evidence shows severe losses in birdlife. The causes are discussed as chapter themes that include habitat destruction and fragmentation in both the temperate regions and the tropical wintering grounds of migrant birds. An increased impact of predators and parasites is also noted in the more human-altered areas. The environmental message should be of wide interest and concern; it is presented in a very readable format. Critical conservation suggestions for the near future, made in the book's conclusion, offer some hope. The volume is a notable contribution to ornithology and to more broad-scale conservation awareness. There are author and subject (including species) indexes, in addition to the up-to-date bibliography. For all readers. C. Leck Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey