Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific by Ber van Perlo

I think one can never have too many bird guides. Each one gives a unique perspective in helping identify various birds. We all have our preferences but knowing that some guides lend themselves to some aspects of bird identification, while others focus on other aspects or a broader view for beginners. It is good to have a variety to choose from. The Princeton Illustrated Checklists: Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific by Ber van Perlo is useful for not only people living in these places or visiting them but also in giving a sneak peak into the birds some of us may never see. I learned of a few new birds I had never heard of before reading this book. The pigeons and fruit doves endemic to these islands are amazing and colorful! I want to see these kind of doves and pigeons coming to my feeders!

The Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific starts with a thorough index. I might add that the paper used for this guide is thick, water resistant sturdy paper. This is important if you’ve ever went birding and it started to rain or what not. You can never be quite sure what will happen while birding. =) To save time and space Ber has devised a system of symbols, abbreviations and a glossary for the readers to easily refer to in the front of the book. Next, he adds an extensive diagram of the various parts of a bird. This is important for beginners and novices alike. It is easy to read and figure out what each part is…

In the introduction, we are walked through how to use this guide most effectively. This guide follows a uniform systematic approach and a set of names that are valid in the areas it covers, clearly labeling which is which when identify the various birds. Each bird is identified by multiple names, where it is found, when it can be found there, its habitat, its specific calls/songs, distinguishing characteristics and a colorful illustration of each particular bird.

The book starts with a series of birds endemic (found only in a particular place) to each place. Then it moves into birds by greater types such as Albatrosses, Petrels, Fruit-Doves and Doves, etc. It is rather easy to follow. I would have liked to see some sort of small color index, as it is always easy to identify birds by their color. This is a nifty trick for beginners. Alas, there is not one in this book but the illustrations are on the outsides of the pages and this makes it easy to spot various birds which are on the right pages and the locations each can be found are on the outside of the left pages, both easy to find when thumbing quickly through the guide.

The book ends with a thorough section for end notes, national and international ornithological organizations, bibliography and references and a fantastic appendix. I appreciate complete appendixes so I can just flip to the back and find what I am looking for easily. Overall, this guide is excellent for its purpose, thorough in its approach and well-made. It does get a pedantic in the explanation of the elaborate abbreviations and symbols used but once you get used to the system, it works no matter what edition of guide you get — whether it is an older version, a newer one or a guide for another location. Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific is worth having around!

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