Extinct Birds by Errol Fuller
Extinct Birds by Errol Fuller – OUP [Oxford University Press] ISBN: 0198508379 - RRP £29.50p - This edition 2000 - Supplied by the Publishers.
This is a fabulous work that I had not previously come across and have been the poorer for that. No birder should be deprived of this perspective on recent [during human history] extinctions and how they have occurred whether it be through direct predation by man – such as the Moas of New Zealand eaten by incoming Maoris, and Great auks seen as an easy meals by seamen, or by virtue of man`s thoughtless introductions, like the Stephen Island Wren`s extirpation by virtue of the Lighthouse keeper`s cat and the majority of New Zealand`s missing endemics by virtue of a whole range of out of place animals.
The lessons are numerous and salutary some showing just how fragile a toehold on existence some species have, others, like the passenger pigeon showing that wholesale slaughter can do for a species if we are determined and reckless enough to set out to shoot tens of millions of individuals. We have manage to push many more species to the edge simply through our ignorant version of delight… I think it was Blake who said It puts all heaven in a rage, to see Robin Redbreast in a cage - how much deeper is the rage at the site of threatened macaws and lorikeets? Is it just me or do other people have a problem seeing someone as a bird lover who keeps a pet in a cage – if we kept a human caged we would surely be called cruel haters not kind lovers?
That this book has bought such thoughts to the fore should be recommendation enough. However, it has much more to offer with well crafted text and an interesting pattern of layout with footnotes and side-notes, photographs and illustrations all adding to the joy of owning such a book and, if not reading right through, dipping into at will.
There are a couple of shortcomings. The index is neither as extensive and comprehensive nor well ordered as I would wish. Maybe it could be improved by an index to species with all alternative names included for those of us who are searching for particular birds without necessarily being able to guess at the family. An annoying stylistic choice of leaving off page numbers where illustrations take the whole double page makes looking something up all the harder too.
Personally I am not keen on a lot of the choices of large illustrative plates used to introduce families – that tend to be dark and rather impressionistic. I don`t know what there is to choose from so I may be doing the editors and injustice here but they tend to be rather dark and depressing to my eye.
Having said that there is more
to like than to criticise and the book remains a useful embodiment of a whole perspective to birds and birding and one I
Created: 15th Jan 2002