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

Alrighty then... Looks like we've got another great Princeton University Press bird book to review... This is one of the 14 "Princeton Illustrated Checklists" series...


Where to begin? Frankly, I don't even know where to begin... Let's see, here are some random observations...

  • First, I'm not a shill for Princeton University Press (PUP). This is the fifth book I've reviewed for them, and this one is certainly one of the best. (It's tough to beat the Crossley ID Guide though.) So don't think of me as a PUP groupie. Quite frankly, I wish they'd send me a dud so I could tear it to pieces; but that's certainly not the case this time...
  • That out of the way... Let's cover the basics... The book itself is 5" by 7" by 256 pages. It contains 95 plates containing 750 illustrations. While the images aren't Sibley, they're certainly serviceable. It also contains the usual table of contents, preface, acknowledgments, bird anatomy, appendix, and index.
  • Beyond the standard stuff, this tome really begins to come into its own when it starts to examine the environment... This includes tectonics, geological, and volcanic influences on local birds.
  • But, that still ain't nothing... It's the magnitude, depth, and organization that really ring the bell... Take a look at the map below...
  • 400_pacific map.jpg

    Maps courtesy of Google Earth
    Those little distance dialog boxes are tough to read, but here's the skinny concerning the scale involved -- Mr. van Perlo has cataloged avian from the Northern Marianas to Pitcairn Island (yellow), and from Hawaii to New Zealand (red). That's roughly 6,300 miles by 5,200 miles respectively. And it is that exact cataloging process that is so remarkable. This is a work of mind-bending taxonomy and systematics. The author has taken 20 "geopolitical entities", and by an act of genius cross referenced all the typical birds for those locations. This is simply amazing. (Hint... The key to this genius lies on pages 9 and 10, and pages 12 through 15. Pay special attention to pages 9 10, 12, 14, and 15!)

  • Bluntly, this book is one of the best I've ever seen of any interest.
  • I'd highly recommend it to the following:
    • Folks located in the title area...
    • Those who dream of a far-off vacation and wonder what birds might be found on such-and-such small island......
    • Anyone (and I do mean anyone) who is involved in the business of knowledge management, search engine design, data structures, etc...
    The only complaint I have with this book is the usual gripe -- I'd like to see some sort of digital version adjunct... But perhaps, with time, that too will come to pass... Regardless... This is an exceptional work...

    By the feeders,


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