A documentary on how the songbird population has been cut in half over the last five decades, "The Messenger" investigates various human factors and environmental changes to find some possible explanations.
Songbirds migrate mostly after dark to evade larger predatory birds, but the bright lights in big cities discombobulate them. Towering glass skyscrapers also prove to be a problem at night, while their reflective floor-to-ceiling windows cause confusion and collisions during the day.
Domestic cats, too, pose a huge threat, and are responsible for the extinction of more than 32 bird species. Meanwhile, the French regard the ortolan bunting as a delicacy, with local authorities ignoring violations of a Europe-wide hunting ban.
The extensive use of pesticides means that, with fewer insects on which to feed, some birds go hungry. Deforestation continues to destroy some of their natural habitats, while industrial noises drown out their mating calls. Global warming disorients many species, sometimes leading to fatal migratory miscalculations.
Filmmaker and co-writer Su Rynard painstakingly surveys the ornithological research around the world, providing a comprehensive primer. Although most interviewees featured here aren't agenda-pushing activists, some of their findings unequivocally caution on the necessity of averting the birds' extinction because they are an integral part of the ecological system.
The conservationists offer some proven solutions, such as window treatments and regulating after-hours light use in office buildings. The slow-motion close-ups alone should convince you that these magnificent creatures are well worth the effort.
4 stars out of 5
Cast: Bridget Stutchbury, Erin Bayne, Michael Mesure, Andrea Rutigliano.
Director: Su Rynard.
Running time: 1:30.
Rated: No rating.