Book Review: Birds of New Guinea

by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt

Book review by Mark N. Lystig 

Birds of New GuineaOne of the (many) delights of amateur birdwatching is the opportunity to learn more about where to find the birds, why you find birds where they are, what are the birds doing in the places where you find them (what are they eating, how are they adapted to eat what they are eating, how do they construct—if they construct—their nests, and how old do they have to be when they are able to nest), and to learn more about the environment in general. But as you can see from this list, the opportunity to learn a little soon turns into a quest to learn a lot.

Birds of New Guinea, by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt, is a checklist of the birds of New Guinea, intended as a supplement to the authors’ earlier field guide, Birds of New Guinea, Second Edition (Princeton). Whereas you might wish to carry the field guide with you if you go birding in the New Guinea region, you will want to leave this book behind as it is quite heavy

Part I is an introduction to the area studied, but also to the scientific terminology and the difficulty of determining how to identify birds by family, genus, and species or subspecies. There’s an explanation why DNA studies may not be the final solution to identification that many may believe it to be, and the authors explain their choices in their treatments of species and subspecies. The interesting introductory section may be reason enough to consult this book (28 pages).

Part II is the bulk of the book, and contains the accounts of each family, genus, species, and subspecies the authors have identified (485 pages). There are brief general family and genus descriptions, then more specific species and subspecies descriptions for making distinctions. A comprehensive introduction to the birds of New Guinea, this may be more than you need to know.