Life itself could never have been sustainable without seabirds. As Adam Nicolson writes: "They are bringers of fertility, the deliverers of life from ocean to land."
A global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds on our planet is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of the seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.
Seabirds have always entranced the human imagination and NYT best-selling author Adam Nicolson has been in love with them all his life: for their mastery of wind and ocean, their aerial beauty and the unmatched wildness of the coasts and islands where every summer they return to breed. The seabird’s cry comes from an elemental layer in the story of the world.
Over the last couple of decades, modern science has begun to understand their epic voyages, their astonishing abilities to navigate for tens of thousands of miles on featureless seas, their ability to smell their way towards fish and home. Only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds as creatures riding the ripples and currents of the entire planet, but that is what the scientists are seeing now today.
A New York Times bestselling author, Adam Nicolson has won many major awards including the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Award, and the Ondaatje Prize. His books include Why Homer Matters.
Mr. Nicolson lives in England with his wife and grown children.
“Threading together science and poetry with a sense of wonder, Adam Nicolson’s The Seabird’s Cry reminds us that these birds are always there at the edge of our existence: at once familiar and utterly mysterious . . . The elegance of the writing, and the very human curiosity and compassion for the seabirds themselves, is enthralling . . . A sustained and powerful cry for a greater understanding and empathy of their unique environments.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Wondrous and lyrical, this book swoops and dives into the art and science of natural history with as much grace as the seabirds it examines.”—The Boston Globe (a Best Book of 2018)
“Beautifully written, haunting in imagery and filled with marvels, the book is also a farewell salute to a once teeming dimension of the natural world, now increasingly devastated by human environmental malfeasance.”—Star Tribune (Critics' Choice, Top 10 of 2018)
“Breathtaking . . . Nicolson’s mind is well stocked and acrobatic, and capable of vivid connections . . . He has an intuitive understanding of the birds that feels almost uncanny . . . His gift is to present this research in a way that is not just comprehensible but compelling, even moving, and to intercut it with dazzling description . . . His swithering between the forensic and the poetic creates a sense of wonder.” —The Spectator
“With scientific rigor and a poet’s sense of wonder, Nicolson uncovers the lives of puffins and kittiwakes, fulmars and gulls, all the while investigating the impact of climate change on these seabirds.” —The American Scholar
“Bounteous . . . An Aladdin’s cave of enlightenment.” —London Evening Standard
“Captivating . . . A celebration of these strange and marvelous beings and the forbidding places they call home.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A beautiful exploration . . . Gorgeous . . . Expansive, generous and beautifully composed.” —The Guardian
“Intimate and engrossing . . . A buoyant celebration of seabirds that serves as an important reminder of nature’s fragility.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An extraordinary hymn to threatened seabirds that breaks down the barriers separating science and poetry . . . Evocative . . . Luminous . . . Nicolson spools outwards from the Shiants, building in the reader’s mind a richly interconnected world of birds on their cliffs and crags, or gliding over endless oceans, all of it described in the most lustrous, lucid prose. I filled the back of the book with quotes I copied down, little sparks of recognition and delight.” —Financial Times
“A moving exploration . . . Demonstrates that wonder about the natural world can be deepened by increasing one’s knowledge of it and that emotional wisdom can be reinforced by the acquisition of practical information. He blends insightful ethological observations with elements of the mythical and peppers his delivery of practical, premodern knowledge with poetic imagery . . . whimsical . . . appeals to both the mind and the heart . . . Nicolson combines a huge amount of scientific information with deeply emotional content and the net effect is moving and quietly profound.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The Seabird’s Cry . . . is full of wonder and guilt, life and death; it is a threnody sounding from cliff to cliff . . . dizzyingly, dazzlingly good.” —The Herald Scotland
“This isn’t just about ‘seabirds.’ It’s about the living poetry of winged beings who share our planet as though inhabiting another world.” —Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Beyond Words.
“This marvellous book inhabits with graceful ease both the mythic and the scientific, and remains alert to the vulnerability of these birds as well as to their wonder. It is a work that takes wing in the mind.” —Robert Macfarlane, award-winning author of Landmarks, The Wild Places, and Mountains of the Mind
“The Seabird’s Cry is a magnificent book and takes its place all at once among the greatest of modern bird books; page after page of extraordinary power, amazing mastery of the science, scintillating and muscled retelling of countless maps and graphs, Nicolson has got the truth better even than those who dug it up; an imaginative reach and original inhabiting of what he has seen, the birds themselves; so enamoured of life it makes you cry; so big with the bigness it finds; and quite wonderful; no one else is doing this or has; it is utterly brilliant.” —Tim Dee, author of The Running Sky and Poetry for Birds