Songbirds make up half of the world's birds. They have been celebrated down through the centuries for their beauty, their tunes, and their amazing migratory feats.
But now their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. There are many causes of this: light and noise pollution which disrupts their ability to navigate during migration and hear mating calls, habitat destruction, collisions with clear glass windows, climate change, the widespread use of insecticides, hunters, and domestic cats.
The filmmaker presents some ways to lessen the impact of these factors, including special marks on windows. But the overall picture is quite distressing. In one scene, a museum lays out a huge display of dead songbirds for visiting children, illustrating what is happening. The filmmaker suggests that songbirds, like canaries in the mines, are harbingers of problems facing the planet as a whole.
A very positive message of this Canadian documentary directed by Su Rynard is that a large number of people are looking out for threatened songbirds – biologists and ecologists, ornithologists, and birdwatchers – and they are collecting the data needed to catalyst ways to protect them. By tagging birds, they are now able to track them through their long migrations, identifying trouble spots and safe havens.
Another commendable aspect of The Messenger is the cinematography of Daniel Grant and Amar Arhab which accentuates the beauty of these songbirds at rest or in flight.
After viewing The Messenger you will be thankful for this opportunity to activate your reverence and wonder for the grace and mystery of these little beings.