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Featuring over 750 species, Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific is the only field guide to illustrate and describe every species of bird you may see in the area, from Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea to Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
* Text gives information on key identification features, habitat, and songs and calls
* All plumages for each species are illustrated, including those of males, females and juveniles
The 95 colour plates appear opposite their relevant text for quick and easy reference. Distribution maps are included, showing where each species can be found and how common it is, to further aid identification. This comprehensive and highly portable guide is a must for all birdwatchers visiting the region.
Ber van Perlo has written and illustrated numerous books, including the highly successful "Birds of Southern Africa". He studied garden and landscape architecture at the Agricultural University of Wageningen in the Netherlands before working as a geographer and physical planner with the National Forestry Service of the Netherlands. During a holiday in Kenya in 1982 he discovered that no field guide existed which depicted all bird species of the area. He began to produce field guides for various regions of Africa, eventually extending to the Indian Subcontinent and Middle and Southern America.
Collins Field Guide: Birds of New Zealand, Hawaii, Central and West Pacific
by Keith Betton in the United Kingdom (24/01/2012)
Given that this book has to cover 780 species in twenty political entities, you might imagine that it is substantial. However it is incredibly small – in fact too small. Measuring just 20 cm by 13 cm (the same as Collins's recent volumes on the Palearctic by Norman Arlott), up to ten species are featured in each double page spread, with text and maps on the left-facing colour illustrations.
The area covered is so enormous it is hard to contemplate. The distance from Palau at the western extreme across to the Pitcairn Islands in the east is 11,500 kilometres, which is even further than the distance from Palau to the UK! Needless to say there are plenty of endemics on offer across the range with New Zealand and Hawaii hosting 65 and 33 respectively. A further 87 endemics are to be found in the other areas covered by the book. In declining order of endemism these are Fiji (28), French Polynesia (24), Micronesia (15), Palau (10), Samoa (8), Cook Islands (6), Pitcairn Islands (5), Tonga and North Marianas (2 each), Kiribati and Guam (1 each), while American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue, Wallis and Futuna have none.
Once again Ber Van Perlo's has painted pictures of all the species. Certainly his illustrations are better than in some of his earlier books but for me they still lack detail and they are crammed in too tightly onto the small pages. The main plumages for each species are illustrated, with both sexes usually shown when they are different. Juveniles are also shown for a selection of species, but these are far too few. Similarly only some are shown in flight. The text gives very brief information on identification features, habitat, and vocalisations. For some species these really don't help much. For example Killdeer is described as follows: "Unmistakable. Note rufous rump and long tail." The maps are miniscule – 18 mm x 12 mm (smaller than the smallest UK stamp). As many of the species have quite restricted ranges these have been designed only to show the area where they occur. However this sensible move is completely undermined by the small size. Use of codes allows for the distribution of each species to be conveyed accurately without wasting space. A good decision was to repeat illustrations for all of the endemics together for each country or group of islands in the introductory pages.
New Zealand is already well covered by field guides which offer more detail than this, so I can't see this book being used for a trip there. Similarly visitors to Hawaii are still well served by The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific (published in 1987 by Princeton University Press and still available). That book covers the other species seen across the various island groups, but it does not offer distribution maps so it could be argued that this new book is more user-friendly by marrying up the text and illustrations. However most people will want the more extensive information in the Princeton book.
My disappointment is that this book could have been so much better. The inclusion of New Zealand has used up valuable space and the whole production could have been spread over more pages and perhaps a bigger page size. Sadly because of these limitations, and because there is an adequate book available already, it is hard to see this book attracting a lot of interest.