Saturday, April 5, 2008

Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago

On a recent trip to the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago I had the pleasure of extensively testing this new field guide by Martyn Kenefick (a Briton now resident in Trinidad) and co-authors Robin Restall and Floyd Hayes.

The guide begins with a general introduction to (bio)geography and climate the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, a more generic summary of bird topography and identification and then a very useful summary of the top birding spots on both islands. Having failed to purchase a copy of William L Murphy's Birdwatchers' Guide to Trinidad & Tobago, I found the brief but accurate directions and highlights very useful. The painted plates are adapted from Birds of Northern South America: An Identification Guide (2007 Yale University Press) by Restall, Rodner, Lentino and Williams, showing the appropriate subspecies for T and T. In general, the layout is good, with similar species gathered together on the same page and the plates are less crowded than in Restall et al.. One niggle is that many of the pigeon and doves are not illustrated in flight, and I found this to be a problem with the shyer forest species where flight views are what you get. Peterson style pointers are used to good effect on many plates but are entirely absent on others (e.g. kingfishers). Following the main species entries - text and corresponding plates on facing pages - the book ends with an up-to-date and useful TT checklist. Kenefick emphasizes the importance of formally documenting rarities (apparently a problem in the past), providing an address for submissions and a list of reviewable species.

This guide is the successor to Richard ffrench's influential A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2001 Comstock) and I had the rare pleasure of meeting both Martyn and Richard during our stay the Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad. In a touching tribute, the new guide is dedicated to the ffrench. To my surprise, Birds of the West Indies (2003 Princeton University Press) by Herbert Raffaele et al. does not include TT, arguing that the islands more properly belong to the South American avifauna.

In summary, Kenefick and collaborators have produced a superb companion to any visit to this delightful island nation. The guide is light enough to be carried in the field, although it is always better to study the birds carefully, make notes and just enjoy them before reviewing the field guide at the end of the day with a refreshing rum and coke in hand!

Publisher: Yale University Press

Publication Date: Jan 28, 2008

288 p., 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
107 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300135572

ISBN-10: 0300135572

Retail Price: US$ 40.00 (paper)

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