Thursday, August 04, 2011

Book Review: Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific

First of all, let me say that this book is not a field guide. Princeton University Press has launched a series of books that they aptly classified as "Illustrated Checklists". This book, The Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and Central and West Pacific, is actually the 11th publication under that category. Earlier books covered the Birds of Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa, Central Africa, Southern South America and Antarctica, South America Non-Passerines: Rheas to Woodpeckers, Europe, Russia, China and Japan Passerines: Tyrant Flycatchers to Buntings, Europe, Russia, China and Japan Non-Passerines: Loons to Woodpeckers, West Indies, and finally, North America.

Inasmuch as the original intention of the author, Ber van Perlo,  was to provide a handy reference in the field, the Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific is quite handy, measuring only 5" X 7-1/2" making it highly portable. Author Van Perlo's illustrations, though not very detailed, are sufficient enough to be able to assist in field identification. Where there are differences in the plumages between male and female, and in some instances, juvenile birds, those are shown in the illustrations as well. The comments for each species are concise giving emphasis on the distinguishing marks of the the bird, its preferred habitat, its range, and a description of its call/song. 

Taxonomy was based on Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (2007). There is an Endnote though, updating some of the classifications (i.e. splitting of species/subspecies) based on more recent research and discoveries.

The distribution maps accompanying each species are sadly, rather small, especially when referring to the various island groups, making it quite difficult to pinpoint the exact ranges of the species covered.

Another nit that I have regarding this book was the author's providing information on the tectonics of the area. Personally, I did not think that it was necessary for an "illustrated checklist". A general description of the habitats would have been sufficient.

All in all, this is a very handy, useful book. If you plan on going on that Pacific tropical island birding holiday or  on that exciting New Zealand adventure, the Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific would be indispensable.

This book is available at  Princeton University press or at Amazon

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