Their Fate Is Our Fate

How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World

By Peter Doherty

At the heart of this book by Nobel Prize–winning immunologist and professor Peter Doherty is this striking observation: Birds detect danger to our health and the environment before we do. Following a diverse cast of bird species around the world—from tufted puffins in Puget Sound to griffon vultures in India, pigeons in East Asia, and wedge-tailed shearwaters off the islands of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—Doherty illuminates birds’ role as an early warning system for threats to the health of our planet and our own well-being.

Their Fate Is Our Fate is an impassioned call not only to attention but to action. As “citizen scientists” we can collect data, vital to cutting-edge research, that depends on the birds that are all around us. Armed with our observations, scientists will continue to uncover new ways to glimpse our future in birds—and to affirm how, truly, their fate is our fate.

Read more

Meet the Author
Peter Doherty headshot

Peter Doherty

More about the author
Review quotes

Their Fate Is Our Fate employs authorial charm and real-world anecdotes to present a compelling, engrossing case for paying careful attention to our avian neighbors.”
ForeWord Reviews

“. . . Doherty views birds as prophets of a sort, as ‘sentinels, sampling the health of the air, seas, forests and grasslands that we share with them.’ He presents tales of complicated, messy interactions between birds and humans, often culled from his experience in the world of medicine but also detailing some of the oft-overlooked ways in which subtle human actions can greatly impact birds. To be reminded of this dynamic, Doherty suggests, is to take responsibility for the health of birds, humans and the Earth.”

“Everyone's heard the expression ‘canary in a coal mine.’ As this fine book makes clear, it turns out to be true in a much larger way than you ever imagined.”
Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

“The author, an enthusiastic bird-watcher, combines bird lore and cutting-edge science in an attractive mix that should inspire citizen scientists to pursue their hobby with renewed vigor and convince others to join in.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A lucid and absorbing account of the relationships between birds, viruses, and environmental degradation. Frightening, but punctuated by humor and historical asides—it will leave you watching and listening to birds with renewed interest.”
Brian Kimberling, author of Snapper

“From the Spanish flu to West Nile virus, disease threatens the integrity of our ecological web. Doherty synthesizes with wit and wisdom the science of disease ecology that he helped create, quickly convincing his readers to learn from the birds that share our disease and destiny.”
John M. Marzluff, Professor of wildlife science, University of Washington and author of Gifts of the Crow

“If human beings have an intuitive sense to regard birds as sentinel species, Peter Doherty tells us in eloquent and precise terms the history, medicine, and biology of why, exactly, we do this. And more to the point, why it is so vital we should attend to the prophetic capabilities of the avian universe—of finches, pelicans, puffins, parrots, turkeys, grouse, eagles, pigeons, and more—as they reveal to us the consequences of a warming climate, habitat loss, and environmental toxins.”
Akiko Busch, author of The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science

“In engaging and forthright prose, Doherty makes it clear that we have to listen to birds now and make serious changes to ensure their survival (and ours).”
Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of The Spine of the Continent

Product Details
Number of pages
Publication date
September 10, 2013