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Winged Migration    by Jacques Perrin & Jean-Francois Mongibeaux order for
Winged Migration
by Jacques Perrin
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2006 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This magnificent book - a companion to the Oscar-nominated documentary, Winged Migration - would grace any coffee table, but be especially appreciated by anyone with an interest in birds, nature, and challenging photography. The cover flap tells us that 'Migration is an enigma', one into which we are given insights via Jacques Perrin's incredible images and Jean-Francois Mongibeaux's illuminating text.

In his Preface, Perrin speaks lyrically of birds traveling the night sky - 'an arrowhead of hope fleeting toward the horizon ... in league with the heavens, guided by the stars.' His words turn each journey into an epic struggle against 'a hostile world of predators and redoubtable weather conditions.' In a second Preface (accompanied by a splendid photo of a flock of snow geese), Jean Dorst calls instinctive migration 'A hymn to life'. He mentions reference to such flights by Homer and Aristotle, and in the Bible, and provides a fascinating overview of bird and animal migrations. He encourages readers to 'journey through this book, accompanying the birds on their long voyages through the great theatre of the skies.'

The trip is divided into chapters: And Then There Were Birds, Life on the Wing, Globe-Trotters of the Sky, and They Have Conquered the Planet. In addition to gorgeous full-page color photographs (and spectacular four-page foldouts), each section comes with informative text that takes us into the world of birds, explains their life journeys, and offers fascinating Feathered Facts (did you know the male emu is a stay-at-home dad?) reflecting their diversity. Topics include avian architecture, vision, communication, the meaning of birdsong, cooperation, intelligence, and marathon migrations. I was especially struck by the foldout images of a crane dance, snow geese landing in Quebec, and Japanese whooper swans, as well as single page pictures of Atlantic puffins on an Icelandic cliff, Arctic terns and seagulls, and Green-winged macaws in an Indian sunset.

An additional section introduces The Cast of Winged Migration, presenting each species with a photo, facts such as wingspan, characteristics, and a map showing breeding and wintering locations. Larger maps show worldwide migration flight paths. Next we go Behind the Scenes to find out how the film and these amazing photographs were shot, to meet the team who put it all together, and to find out how it felt to get so close to avians. This section has the most impressive foldout, showing an ultralight flying with birds in different locations. Finally, the journey ends with a brief discussion - in Birds Tomorrow - of how birds are endangered, with the hope that this will change.

Who is not intrigued by the magic of birds? The annual fall and spring migrations of Canada geese are highlights of my year - I love to watch them write giant V's as they wheel across the sky, a paean to life. Winged Migration is a wonderful book, a tribute to birds' 'joie de survivre'. Inspiring and moving, it makes an extraordinary gift.

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