Meet the Man Who Flies With the Birds in Order to Save Them (Video)

©. Voler Avec Les Oiseaux

A former meteorologist, Christian Moullec flies an ultralight to guide vulnerable birds on safe migration routes.

So many times I’ve said to myself, “If I could start again, I’d ...” fill in the blank du jour: rescue orangutans, work at the sloth sanctuary, count turtle eggs for science, et cetera. Since I’m firmly rooted with my family and a job that I already love, these are really just armchair ambitions. But nonetheless, it fills my heart with tremendous joy to learn about people who really do give it all up to dedicate themselves to animals. The latest in this parade of heroes is the French birdman, Christian Moullec.

If you saw the film, Fly Away Home, you already know about Bill Lishman, who was the first person to conduct an aircraft-led migration of birds by means of an ultralight. Following in his footsteps, Moullec has been doing the same ever since he learned that lesser white-fronted geese were struggling with their migration from Germany to Sweden. In 1995, he took to the skies to help them. “Today, weather permitting, he soars with birds on an almost daily basis,” writes National Geographic.

“In 1995 I wanted to reintroduce lesser white-fronted geese into the wild in Lapland,” Moullec tells National Geographic. And so he began raising orphaned ones and adapted a two-seater ultralight aircraft to guide them on a safe migration.

“The most beautiful thing is to fly in the heavens with the angels that are the birds,” he says.

Along with the hands-on work of getting birds to where they need to be, Moullec also offers tourist ride-alongs to support his efforts; and he documents his work as an aid to conservation. He says that the photographs provide testimony about the disappearance of migratory birds in Europe, because of the use of chemicals in agriculture.

“A third of wild birds have disappeared from Europe during the last 30 years, because of man. It's a disaster,” he tells National Geographic. “My beautiful images with flying birds should be used to tell this story. The famous French writer Victor Hugo said that the beautiful is more useful than the useful, so I hope that the beautiful images of my birds in flight will be useful to migratory birds and to humans.”

You can see some of the extraordinary footage below ... meanwhile, I'll be dreaming of my new fantasy life as a bird guide.