Monday, January 24, 2011

another fine new field guide

Perhaps we shouldn't really call this book a "field guide" - in fact, the publishers (Princeton University Press) call Birds of the West Indies, by Norman Arlott, an "illustrated checklist". It's smaller than most field guides by half - only 240 pages. But that small size packs a lot of information, on 550 species from the West Indies region. Each matching text page with its facing page of gorgeous plates displays from six to ten species. You'll find that the West Indies are rich in nightjar species, hummingbirds, and cuckoos. Some species are very familiar to the North American birder, because of course there are many of "our" breeding species that winter in the West Indies, and they are all illustrated and described here, in addition to the many endemics found in this region. The last 70 pages are all maps, somewhat simplified, showing the range of the species highlighted on the overall map of the region. I always like guides with maps arranged nearer the plates and descriptions, but it's rather easy to see why this method of organization was chosen, due to the small size of the book and the limitations that creates. A fine book for any birder traveling to the islands - and I wish I was headed there right now. I'd be taking this book with me.

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