A note from Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler on the landmark publication of the 2nd edition of Birds of New Guinea

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BIRDS OF PARADISE, ASTRAPIAS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

Twenty-eight years have passed since publication of the first edition of Birds of New Guinea. In that time, big changes have taken place in this important bird region. The human population has more than doubled, economic development—particularly mining and logging—has accelerated, and the loss of habitat has increased proportionately. On the brighter side, vast tracts of wilderness remain, several international conservation organizations have joined forces with local governments to protect the forest, birding as a form of ecotourism has blossomed, and a new generation of field researchers has taken to the bush. Exciting new information on bird distribution and biology has poured in. And as if to heighten appreciation for New Guinea’s avifauna, modern molecular systematic research has revolutionized the classification of birds and pinpointed New Guinea and Australia as the motherland of the world’s most prominent bird lineage, the songbirds (oscine passerines). In light of these changes, a new edition of Birds of New Guinea is timely.

A book must suit the purposes of the people using it. In many parts of the world—Australia, Europe, North America—field guides to birds are written mainly for birders (bird-watchers). These books focus solely on how to identify birds to species, how to tell the age and sex of a bird, and how and where to find it. Readers wishing to learn more about birds can turn to other books for information on bird natural history, ecology, reproduction, evolution, geographic variation, classification, and conservation. Unfortunately, much of this information on New Guinea birds can be found only in technical literature that is not readily available.

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DOLLARBIRD, BEE-EATERS, AND LARGE KINGFISHERS. Copyrighted material from Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler (Princeton University Press)

It is our wish that readers in the field have more basic information at their fingertips. In the new edition of Birds of New Guinea, we have expanded the content of the species accounts to include more biological details—behavior, diet, nesting—than are typically covered in a field guide. As for the identification purpose of the book, we have also expanded the species accounts in this second edition to explain how to determine the sex and age of a bird, and how geographic variation is partitioned into subspecies (races). To accomplish all this, we have adopted a “handbook-style” format for the book. Rather than fitting all the information opposite the painted plates—the format typical of most recent field guides—our book presents detailed species accounts in the body of the book separate from the illustrations in the front, with abridged species accounts and maps facing the plates. We hope this additional information will be of use to birders, tour guides, biologists, and conservationists who enjoy New Guinea birds and strive to learn more about them.

Expanding the scope of the book demanded new artwork, and for that we drew up a plate plan that more than doubled the number of figures and resulted in replacing nearly all original artwork. The resulting book is as beautiful as it is informative, and we hope readers are as delighted with it as we are.


This text has been adapted from the preface of Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler.

Fun Facts about Caribbean Wildlife

Raffaele_WildlifeCaribbeanS14Did you know…

  • Residents of colonial Cuba could be punished for insulting the Cuban Trogon, a red-breasted bird whose plumage was seen as representing the red sash worn by Spanish kings.
  • Ackee with salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, but the fruit can be highly poisonous if harvested or cooked incorrectly
  • The earliest attempt to import breadfruit into the Caribbean was thwarted by a famous mutiny — the one on the H.M.S. Bounty, which was carrying the seedlings among its cargo.
  • You can tell which way the wind blows on a given island by looking at the coconut palm trees, which often leans in the direction of the prevailing breeze.
  • The Caribbean is home to dozens of species of bats, about half of which are endemic to the islands.
  • The Red Junglefowl found in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Grenadines is actually the feral offspring of formerly domesticated roosters and chickens.
  • Crocodiles are native to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
  • Barracudas have been known to attack divers wearing sparkly clothing, which they can mistake for prey.
  • The black grouper can grow to four feet long and change its sex from female to male.
  • The Caribbean spiny lobster can swim backwards by flipping its tail.

Whether you are traveling to the Caribbean by plane or by cruise ship, make sure you pack a copy of Wildlife of the Caribbean by Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley so you can learn more about the birds, fish, mammals, and plants you might see.

 

Credit — these fun facts were included in About.com Caribbean Travel’s review of Wildlife of the Caribbean.

Derek Lovitch Takes Flight

Derek Lovitch, author of How To Be a Better Birder and bird-blogger extraordinaire, recently posted on his blog Maine Birding Field Notes, that he was planning a flight of his own to visit some friends (feathered and otherwise) and make a few appearances to talk about his book. Live in the area? Maybe you’ll spot the birder while he birds!


How To Be A Better BirderEarly tomorrow morning I depart for Iowa, where I will be speaking at the Iowa Ornithologist Union’s Fall Meeting.  I’ll be giving the keynote presentation on “How to Be a Better Birder” using my SandyPoint case study program and I will also be showing my Russian Far East travelogue.  Finally, I will be joining the 2009 Bradbury Mountain Hawkcounter, Danny Akers, in leading a field trip.

After my weekend in the Hawkeye State, I head to Wisconsin to visit the Urban Ecology Center in Wisconsin.  In between and thereafter, I’ll be spending a couple of days birding and visiting with friends.   I’ll post the occasional update about migration in the Midwest, my birding, and other musings on my book’s Facebook page should you be interested in following my travels.

Now I am just left to wonder what state bird I will miss here in Maine while I am away (there’s always one!)


Don’t forget to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering. Click on the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.