Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Seabird's Cry

The Seabird's Cry

The Lives and Loves of the Planet's Great Ocean Voyagers

Adam Nicolson

Henry Holt and Co.

BUY THE BOOK

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.

Introduction

One day, on a steeply sloping grass shelf on the Shiant Isles in the Hebrides, two or three hundred feet above the surface of the Minch, the wide sleeve of sea between the mainland of Scotland and the Outer Isles, I was...

Praise for The Seabird's Cry

“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 … More…

“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

Less…

Reviews from Goodreads

Adam Nicolson

Adam Nicolson is a prize-winning writer of many books on history and nature, including Sea Room, NYT bestselling God's Secretaries, and the acclaimed Why Homer Matters. He is winner of the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Award, and the British Topography prize. He has written and presented many television series and lives on a farm in Sussex.

image of Adam Nicolsono
James Nutt

Adam Nicolson

Meet the Author

February 19-24, 2018

Meet Adam Nicolson as he reads from his new book The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet's Great Ocean Voyagers.

READ THE FULL EXCERPT →