Flight Paths

Rebecca Heisman

How and why birds navigate the skies, travelling from continent to continent — flying thousands of miles across the earth each autumn and spring — has continually fascinated the human imagination, but only recently have we been able to fully understand these amazing journeys.

How did this revolution come about? Flight Paths is the never-before-told story of how an eccentric group of ornithologists, engineers and other pioneering scientists have harnessed nearly every technological development of the last hundred years to understand bird migration in detail – from where and when they take off, their flight paths and behaviours, their destinations and the challenges they face getting there.

In this fascinating and compelling story Rebecca Heisman uncovers the secret history of an ornithological arms race that not only helped solve the mystery of bird migration using radar, radioactive isotopes, satellites and the humble aluminium band but has also given us much needed insight into how best to protect and conserve the bird life we cherish.


ISBN: 9781800752924

Published: April 20, 2023


ISBN: 9781800752931

Published: March 17, 2023


Reviews for Flight Paths

‘It’s amazing how much effort it has taken to understand that birds migrate and where to … a fascinating account of discovery’ – Frans de Waal

‘Reads like a cross between a great detective story and riveting science fiction, except that the science here is all fact. Migratory birds span the globe through incredible feats of navigation and endurance, and the researchers who have uncovered their secrets are just as fascinating as the birds themselves’ – Kenn Kaufman, author of the Kaufman Field Guide series

Flight Paths is a delight, and the ground-breaking bird migration scientists whom Rebecca Heisman profiles in this fascinating book are a wonderfully unconventional lot. Heisman is the ideal guide to their world — curious, chatty, and adept at making sometimes complex research easily understandable’ – Scott Weidensaul, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Living on the Wind and A World on the Wing

‘Heisman sends you aloft on warbler wings for an unforgettable journey through the world of avian migration. You’ll meet beguiling birds and the people who study them, and you’ll learn how bird-tracking technology has improved so that once-hazy maps now click into focus. An enthralling trip that’ll leave you feeling inspired and connected’ – Rosemary Mosco, award-winning nature cartoonist, bird artist, and science book author

‘Understanding how, why and where birds migrate is about more than solving a mystery. It is critical for future conservation efforts a vital wake-up call’ – New Scientist


Rebecca Heisman

Rebecca Heisman is a science writer based in eastern Washington who loves nerding out about birds. She’s contributed to publications including Audubon Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Hakai Magazine, bioGraphic, Living Bird, and Bird Conservation. From 2015 to 2020, she worked for the American Ornithological Society (AOS), the world’s largest professional organization for bird scientists.