Shortlist year: 
2021
Shortlist category: 
Non-fiction
Published by: 
Allen & Unwin

About the book

Flight Lines: Across the Globe on a Journey with the Astonishing Ultramarathon Birds by Andrew Darby.

As the sun lowered and turned Gulf St Vincent fiery, they each called a high-pitched 'peeooowiii!', flashed their black wing-pits, spread their tail skirts and took flight.

Andrew Darby follows the odysseys of two Grey Plovers, little-known migratory shorebirds, as they take previously uncharted ultramarathon flights from the southern coast of Australia to Arctic breeding grounds. On these extraordinary flights they chance predators, typhoon weather and exhaustion before they can breed, and maybe return to familiar southern feeding grounds. But the greatest threat to these, and other long-distance migrants on the flyway, is China's dragon economy, engulfing their vital Yellow Sea staging spots.

The author meets the dedicated people working to save these intrepid birds, from Russia to Alaska, from the rim of the Arctic Sea to the coasts of the Southern Ocean. Out of their hard-won science he finds hope for the birds–a bright light for our times.

But his journey to understand this work and these birds almost ends when he is suddenly diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Then he finds science coming to his rescue too.