________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006


Birds of Prey Rescue: Changing the Future for Endangered Wildlife. (Firefly Animal Rescue).

Pamela Hickman.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2006.
64 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55407-144-5 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55407-145-3 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Birds of prey-Juvenile literature.
Endangered species-Juvenile literature.
Wildlife conservation-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4


California condors are dying from eating carcasses that contain lead shot, the pellets that come from the guns of hunters. Animals that have been shot but not retrieved by hunters can die of their wounds and become food for scavengers. In July 2000, four captive-bred condors released into Arizona were found dead as a result of lead poisoning. One of the dead birds had eaten 17 shotgun pellets with its meals. In 2002, 14 wild condors were found with seriously high lead levels.

The following year, biologists in Arizona trapped all the condors in the wild to take blood samples and test for lead. They found 13 cases of lead exposure; five birds required immediate treatment at the Phoenix Zoo. Thankfully, all of the birds survived.


Another animal group has been added to the growing list of titles in the “Firefly Animal Rescue” series. The birds of prey in focus here include several species of eagles, peregrine falcons, California condors, burrowing owls and vultures. While these birds are admired for their special hunting adaptations, their speed and/or size, they have also been targeted throughout history for their image as killers. The result has been dramatic population declines due to poisoning, habitat and prey loss, and hunting. This book addresses these issues and highlights some of the work of scientists who are attempting to restore and stabilize raptor populations around the world.

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     A feature that sets the tone for all the books in this series is the time line page (The Story So Far) that traces the problems and solutions. The devastating effects of DDT, for example, came to light in the 1940s, and it was not until 1974 that captive-bred peregrine falcons were ready for release in Canada. In other parts of the world, use of chemicals continues to impact these top-of-the-food-chain predators; some calls for bans have yet to be answered. Another intriguing aspect of the books is the inclusion of profiles of individuals at work on recovery programs. These range from a US veterinary microbiologist investigating vulture die-offs in Pakistan, to an Alberta rancher monitoring burrowing owls that nest on his land. Accounts of each specie's struggles and successes are written in engaging language accessible to a middle grade audience and include top-quality dramatic photographs of both lifestyle and recovery operations. Readers may be surprised at the innovative methods used to track and document the birds' lives: critically endangered condor chicks are fed by life-sized condor puppets to avoid human imprinting, and the condors wear numbers and radio transmitters upon release to alert researchers about where they go, what they eat, even what other birds they associate with.
     As the author points out, these birds of prey "are like smoke detectors in your home," keeping us aware of the state of the environment. A list of conservation organizations and websites for further learning is provided at the end of the book. If your concern is the future of endangered wildlife, this series belongs on your bookshelf.

Highly Recommended.

Living in BC, Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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