The Netherlands Antilles comprises three main islands off the coast of northern Venezuela. These are Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. They are major tourist destinations, especially popular with divers, and also attract many visitors from Holland and elsewhere. The colour plates are based on the bestselling Birds of Northern South America, but many new images have been painted specially for this book. The authoritative text highlights the key features needed to identify each species in the field, and the plates illustrate every distinct plumage and race. This will be the first ever comprehensive field guide dedicated to the birds of the region.
"Known until 2010 as The Netherlands Antilles, these islands made up an autonomous Caribbean country which was part of the Netherlands. Often referred to as ‘the ABC islands’ they are semi-arid, with distinct dry and rainy seasons, and lie off the north coast of Venezuela in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. The bird fauna of the islands is considered to be South American but there is also a strong West Indian element, most marked in Bonaire.
The islands have around 70 breeding species and do not support any endemics, but at least 16 local subspecies have been described, including four exclusively from Bonaire and two from each of Curaçao and Aruba. Of particular interest are well-differentiated forms of white-tailed nightjar Caprimulgus cayennensis, brown-throated parakeet Aratinga pertinax and grasshopper sparrow Ammodramus savannarum. The only threatened species on the islands is the yellow-shouldered amazon Amazona barbadensis, which is restricted to Bonaire.
In 1983, Karel Voous produced an English version of his Birds of The Netherlands Antilles but, despite an extensive text, the book was inadequately illustrated. So this is the first comprehensive book on the birds of the region. It is laid out in typical field-guide style with annotated colour plates on the right-hand pages, featuring around five species and text on the opposite page. Among the 71 colour plates there are almost 1000 images of 285 species. The majority of Robin Restall’s illustrations have been taken directly from his Birds of Northern South America and the smaller Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, although others have been newly created. The plates are over-colourful in places and the proportions of some of the birds (particularly the waders) feel out of proportion. Some migrants from North American are illustrated only in non-breeding plumage, since these birds will have already moulted by the time they arrive on the islands in the autumn.
The text is concise and covers the main identification topics, including plumage features, voice, habitat and status. An introductory section discusses the history, geography and biodiversity of the islands, including notes on the best spots to go birding. Alternative names are given in Dutch and Papiamento (the local creole language). Given the small size of the islands there are no maps, but a checklist indicates which islands each species has been recorded from. The status texts emphasise how the majority of species in this book are, in fact, rare visitors to these islands, and your likely trip list will comprise a meagre 70–80 species. While these islands are popular with American tourists, and divers in particular, there is relatively little to attract the keen birder. However, if you do decide to visit, this is the guide to take."
- Keith Betton, www.britishbirds.co.uk, 13-08-2012
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Bart de Boer is a Dutch ornithologist who has previously authored a simple photographic guide to the commoner birds of the region.
Eric Newton is an amateur ornithologist resident on Curacao.
Robin Restall is the principal author and sole illustrator of "Birds of Northern South America".