Birds of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire by Bart de Boer, Eric Newton & Robin Restall introduced me to the avian life of an area I had never paid attention to before. If you are not familiar with these islands, they are off the north coast of Venezuela in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. The islands arose from the volcanic activity created by the collision of the South American and Caribbean tectonic plates.
A majority of the birds that call these islands home at one point or another throughout the year are also found in the US. Some of the birds are year round residents with broad ranges, while others spend the breeding season in the US and the winters on the islands. Despite never having personally traveled to these islands, I have seen most of the birds, allowing me to get a good feel for the quality in the illustrations. Overall I am quite happy with the illustrations in the book; most of the species are depicted in life-like postures and are accurately proportioned, two of the most important components for me in a good field guide. Species such as terns, swallows and raptors are also illustrated in flight, and these are also very accurate. As far as I could tell, plumage colors were also well represented. My biggest complaint would be that the oversimplified Catharus thrush plumages, exacerbating any identification challenges between Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s Thush, and possibly making Veery into a confusion species as well.
One thing that I found interesting when looking through this field guide is that some of the Neotropical migrants such as Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak are not illustrated in breeding plumage, since these birds will already have molted by the time they arrive on the islands in the fall.
I would recommend this field guide if you are making a trip to this area. The small size makes it easy to slip in a daypack for quick reference. A Sibley could provide a good reference to all but a quarter of the species in the area, however it is that 25% that you are likely to find the most interesting.
- First-ever comprehensive field guide to the birds of the Lesser Antilles
- Complete coverage of the islands’ bird species, including residents, migrants, and vagrants
- Close to 1,000 illustrations on 71 color plates depicting every species and all major plumages and races
- Concise text on facing pages highlights key identification features, including voice, habitat, behavior, and status
Disclaimer: Princeton University kindly provided a copy of this guide for the review.