Book review: ‘The Seabird’s Cry’ by Adam Nicolson

The lives of puffins, gannets, and other ocean voyagers.

The Seabird’s Cry

The Seabird’s Cry is a hugely entertaining book about birds that spent much of their lives at sea. There are chapters on fulmars, puffins, kittiwakes, gulls, guillemots, cormorants and shags, shearwaters, gannets, the extinct great auks and their surviving close relatives the razorbills, and albatrosses.

The prose borders on the poetic in places, and occasionally on the anthropomorphic—although not in an objectionable way. But Nicolson also pulls no punches in describing the less savoury habits of certain seabird species.

There is also a plenty of fascinating science in this book, exploring, for example, how scientists eventually managed to track various ocean-going species’ foraging and migration routes, and gain insights into how they navigate. Indeed, science is pretty much the hero of this book. As Nicolson says in the introduction:

Science, for all that non-scientists disparage it, is dedicated to that urge towards [exploring life], and the astonishing findings of modern seabird scientists mean that a sense of wonder now emerges not from ignorance of birds but from understanding them.

Anyone who has read the final chapter of my book On the Moor will appreciate how heartily I endorse these sentiments.

Highly recommended.


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