Episode available within Canada only.

Birdsong that has graced the Earth for millions of years - and for all of human history - could soon be stilled in a human-made perfect-storm of negligence and unintended consequences.

Dr. Bridget Stutchbury with a purple martin

SongbirdSOS is the artfully-shot story of the mass depletion of songbirds in the Americas, an alarming thinning of populations that has seen declines of many species since the 1960s.  According to international birding expert Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, who is featured in the documentary, we may have lost almost half the songbirds that filled the skies fifty years ago.

SongbirdSOS is a wide-ranging zoological whodunit that takes the viewer through a stunning variety of human-made perils that have afflicted species from warblers to orioles to grosbeaks to thrushes. On a hopeful note, it also shines a light on some ingenious approaches to the threat, and the on-the-ground heroes making them happen.

Songbird hazards include: glass-enclosed high-rise buildings that account for up to a billion bird deaths annually, light pollution that disorients birds’ migratory flight paths, lost breeding and wintering habitats from rain forests to wetlands to boreal forests, oil pipelines and farm pesticides. And contributing to the declines are cats; believed to cause at least another billion bird deaths per year.  

Dr. Andrew Farnsworth studies songbirds in New York

There’s unforgettable real-time frontline research in SongbirdSOS. Michael Mesure of the volunteer army FLAP  (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Canada shows a toll of thousands of birds on a tour of particularly lethal Toronto buildings, along with some buildings that have been made less so by design. In Saskatchewan avian eco-toxicologist Christy Morrissey discovers lethal neonicotinoids in the spring wetland water supply, ahead of its annual application by local farmers. In a revelatory sequence, Bridget Stutchbury equips northern Purple Martins with micro-chip backpacks that reveal the secrets of their oddly-non-linear migratory journeys to South America and back. 

In collaboration with scientists at AFAR, SongbirdSOS also filmed songbirds in night flight using a super slow motion camera, resulting in spectacular images.

Ornithologist Alejandra Martinez-Salinas

And there’s a glimpse of hope for the future, as Costa Rican coffee farmers learn from ornithologist Alejandra Martinez-Salinas about the benefits of pesticide-free shade-grown coffee.  The diversity of shade trees could provide the birds better habitat and the songbirds’ appetite for insects can care of pests, making it less essential to spray with agro-chemicals.

Over the course of a year, following the seasons and the birds, Director Su Rynard and the team set out on a journey of discovery. 

“We discovered that the causes of songbird declines are many, and the solutions are few,” states  Rynard. “Yet everywhere we went, we met passionate people who are concerned and are working for change – as this is not just about the future of birds, it’s about the health of the planet too.”

SongbirdSOS is directed by Su Rynard, written by Su Rynard and Sally Blake and produced by Joanne Jackson, Sally Blake and Martin de la Fouchardière, Diane Woods and Sally Blake.

Credits (Click to expand)

Su Rynard
Joanne P. Jackson
Sally Blake  & Martin de la Fouchardière
Su Rynard  & Diane Woods

written by
Su Rynard
Sally Blake
directors of photography
Daniel Grant
Amar Arhab
Chris Romeike
Laurent Charbonnier
sound recordists
Jason Milligan
James MacDonald
Dominique Kerboeuf
Mike Fillipov
Martine Todisco
Carole Larsen

additional editing
Sally Blake
Eamonn O’Connor

Phil Strong

line producer/production managers
Diana Warme
Martin de la Fouchardière
Janine Heath

additional photography
Joshua See
Mark Alberts

production co-ordinators
Daniel Thomson 
Rébecca Hagège 
Marissa Caldwell
Joanne Jackson
Rébecca Hagège 

producer trainee
Andrew Moir

Bérénice Rietveld
Stéphanie Ohrem
assistant editors
Andrew Kines  
David Tarnowsky
Harold Horoks 
Kevin Bonnar 
camera assistants
Joshua See
Alexandre Bon 
Justin Christian Tobin
Florian Di Maggio


phantom camera tech crew
phantom tech -Marty Carriero 
focus puller - Lori Longstaff
grip & camera assistant -Igor Alves
visual research
Elizabeth Klinck 
Joanne Jackson
Andrew Moir

location assistant
Caitlyn McManus  
editing consultant
Ricardo Acosta

on-line editor
Kyle Campbell

colour correcting
Mila Patriki 
on-line post co-ordinator
Christian Carruthers

sound effects/design
Phil Strong

sound mixing
Philippe Charriot
footage  transfers
Michael Ball

script and narration consultant
Siobhan Flanagan

Ingrid Hamilton 

outreach & social media 
JoAnne Fishburn
Anna Fischer 
Julie Giles
Andrew Moir
archive footage
Michael Male - BirdFilms
Sandra Tober,  Clearwater
James Duncan Davidson
Garth McElroy
Jim Zipp
Hugo Kitching
McCauley Library – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Getty Images
Pond 5
INA Media Pro
Objective One
business affairs/financial advisor
John BV Kelly

production accounting
Andre Czernohorsky 

Steven Friedman
french administrator
Bruno Sterpellone

story concept
Diane Woods

executive in charge of production for ARTE France
Catherine Alvaresse, chargée de programmes Unité Découverte et Connaissance
special thanks
AFAR Team - Western University
Dr. Christopher Guglielmo
Bird Studies Canada
The Royal Ontario Museum
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Ernie Jardine
Nina Beveridge
Lawrence Botnick
Cassandra Nicolaou
Sarka Kalusova
Ernesto Carmen
Kim Derko
Zoe Dirsk
Hot Docs Forum
Sylicone Sound
Urban Post
SIM digital
Purple Martin Conservation Association, Presque Isle Park
and for the kind permission from the National Museum of Natural History

early development was possible
with support from 
The Canadian Film Centre & NFB Feature Documentary Development Program
David J. Woods Productions
Sunnyside of the Doc

developed in association with
The National Film Board of Canada
Ontario Media Development Corporation 

produced with the participation of
Telefilm Canada International Co-Production Office
The Documentary Organization of Canada: Giving Voice
Rogers Telefund (logo)
Ontario Media Development Corporation Feature Film Fund (OMDC logo- No Box around logo)
Rogers Documentary Fund (logo)

with support from 
Canada Media Fund  (logo  )
CNC - Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée  (logo)
ZED (logo)

Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits (OMDC tax credit logo)
The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (Canada wordmark logo)

produced in association with
Canal D (logo) 
A division of Bell Media Inc.
Director, Original Productions
Sylvie de Bellefeuille

PBS  Nova (logo)

ARTE France (logo)
produced in association with
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
(logo) 2015

senior producer
Caroline Underwood

executive producer
Sue Dando
a Canada/France treaty co-production,
SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. - Films à Cinq/ARTE France.   C. 2015
for the nature of things

online editing
Adam Champ

associate director
Renée Moreau

unit production manager
June Hall
for the nature of things

senior manager
Documentary Unit
Wilma Alexander

senior producers
Caroline Underwood
FM Morrison
for the nature of things

executive producer
Sue Dando

executive director
Documentary Programming
Mark Starowicz

The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki

produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


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