A Feathered River Across the Sky
Published by Bloomsbury, USA
304 pages, in Hardcover, Softcover, and Kindle format
Now into its 3rd hardcover printing
Co-Producer/Co-Writer of the
upcoming documentary "From Billions to None"
See Reviews Below
Naturalist Joel Greenberg is a consultant and writer specializing in natural history and has authored numerous books, including A Natural History of the Chicago Region (2002, University of Chicago Press).
Joel is a research associate at the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
He is the recipient of several awards for his environmental protection work.
In his book, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction (Bloomsbury USA), the first history of the passenger pigeon in 60 years, Joel sets out to answer a puzzling question: How could this bird go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years?
His book has been reviewed by The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, Audubon Magazine, Library Journal, The New York Review of Books, and leading online blog sites among others. Several review excerpts appear here, together with available online links to the full review.
Recent reviews of "A Feathered River Across the Sky"—
The New Yorker
Jan. 6, 2014, Five pages: Jonathan Rosen
The first major work in sixty years about the most famous extinct species since the dodo...equal parts natural history, elegy, and environmental outcry...A painstaking researcher, Greenberg writes with a naturalist's curiosity about the birds...Answering even basic questions about the passenger pigeon requires a sort of forensic ornithology, which gives A Feathered River Across the Sky an unexpected poignancy at the very points where it is most nature-nerdy.
Greenberg pulls together a wealth of material from myriad sources to describe the life and death of this species, describing the majesty of millions flying overhead for hours as well as the horror of tens of thousands of birds being slaughtered while they nested . He also examines the larger lessons to be learned from such an ecological catastrophe—brought on by commercial exploitation and deforestations, among other causes—in this “planet’s sixth great episode of mass extinctions.” Greenberg has crafted a story that is both ennobling and fascinating.
With... professional "pigeoners" seeking to take advantage of national markets for pigeon meat... the gradual decline that began at the start of the 19th century became catastrophic by the 1870s. Greenberg's sifting of the historical record shows how a variety of factors—e.g., use of the telegraph to report locations of immense nesting colonies.., completion of the eastern railroad network, complete habitat destruction—sealed the bird's fate. The human folly depicted here is as deep as the pigeons were numerous, and the author's occasionally mordant comments on the grim events give the book an added charge, making his intended "teaching moment" certain. Highly recommended.
Field Editor, Audubon Magazine
An epic of life and death on a scale of billions… The world has never seen anything like the abundance and crash of the passenger pigeon. This astonishing book glows with life, not just as history but as a vivid and urgent story for today and tomorrow. Joel Greenberg is one of our finest nature writers, and his masterful command of this extraordinary topic makes this a must-read book for the ages.
Mike Bergin, Founder, Leading Online Birding Blog
Joel Greenberg, in A Feathered River Across the Sky, has indeed created a new and highly worthwhile contribution to the literature of the Passenger Pigeon. Combining genuine literary talent with a passion for research and synthesis, he has written a book that will henceforward be the first that I recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about these iconic birds. Greenberg provides broad-ranging information on all matters Passenger Pigeon, from prehistory to post-extinction pop culture, and yet the book neither drags nor natters...
I especially enjoyed the coverage of Pigeon ecology and their impacts on the landscape, a necessarily speculative but rich and vital subject that I have not seen covered in such depth elsewhere in the popular literature. The Appendix, for those of you inclined to skip back matter, is also a must-read. But there are fine, understated poetic moments throughout the book...(though the chapters on hunting methods and the great slaughters were so effectively awful that I found my teeth grinding and my slapping hand itching a little bit for our stupid, stupid ancestors.)
For more on the film, From Billions to None, for which Joel is co-producer, check out the links on the upper left of this page: