‘Moonbird: A Year on the Wind With the Great Survivor B95,’ by Phillip Hoose

July 31, 2012

MOONBIRD: A Year on the Wind With the Great Survivor B95

By Phillip Hoose

Farrar Straus Giroux. $21.99.
Ages 10 and up

Phillip Hoose’s first big book about a bird celebrated the loud, large and almost certainly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker. His new, equally well researched book focuses on a smaller, less distinctive-looking creature, but one that has a decent chance of survival — if humans cooperate.

Just as “The Race to Save the Lord God Bird” (2004) chronicled how conservationists tried to protect the woodpecker’s habitat, “Moonbird” shows a loose-knit team of scientists struggling to figure out why the worldwide population of the shorebirds called red knots has fallen by nearly 80 percent.

The true star of Hoose’s new book, however, is one particular red knot that was tagged with leg band No. B95 in 1995. Since then, the bird has often been seen during his epic migrations — more than 325,000 miles so far, farther than the distance between Earth and the moon.

With an effective mix of facts and conjecture, Hoose conveys B95’s wide experience, from the challenges of his first month in Arctic Canada 20 years ago to the physical demands of flying for three days straight. Hoose’s vivid prose and the book’s close-up photos give a sense of other red-knot talents, like fattening up for a long flight and sleeping while staying alert for predators. And there’s recent good news: B95 was photographed in late May, feasting on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay.

Abby McGanney Nolan

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