Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia
By Guy Dutson | 447 pages | 75 colour plates | colour photos | colour maps | black & white illustrations | tables | Christopher Helm | Softcover | 2011 | ISBN: 9780713665406Publisher’s Description

This new Helm Field Guide covers the species-rich Melanesia region of the south-west Pacific, from New Caledonia and the Solomons through the Bismarks to Vanuatu, a popular destination for tours and travellers and one that has never before had field-guide coverage. The cover star is the Kagu, the region’s most iconic bird species and a highly sought-after endemic of New Caledonia. Superb colour plates illustrate the 650 species that occur in the region, allied with concise identification text and a series of distribution colour bars. For anyone travelling to this far-flung Pacific region, this book is indispensible.

Guy Dutson is an ornithologist and tour-leader, and is the world’s leading authority on the birds of the south-west Pacific, a region in which he has described or rediscovered several species. He has led expeditions to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, in the course of which he rediscovered the Superb Pitta on Manus. Expeditions to Indonesia and the Philippines led to the rediscovery of the Tanahjampea Monarch and and the find for which he is perhaps best known, the Cebu Flowerpecker. In 2008 Dutson described a new species, the Vanikoro White-eye.Fatbirder View

This is a tewrrific project as it must be very difficult to create such a portmanteau covering a number of countries spread across a very large area of ocean. Just finding a quick and easy way to show which birds are relevant to which island is a hard task, expertly achived with a simple code for each.

Many of the illustrations are not the style I like most as they do rather tend towards blocks of colour whereas I prefer fine lines. Nevertheless, they are more than adequate and there is plenty of detail in the text species accounts that are separate to the plates in Helm’s tried and tested manner. There is much to admire and the publisher’s claim that this would be indispensible on a visit to the region is one I would endorse.


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