Extinct Birds By Julian Hume and Michael P Walters | 320 Pages | 80 Black & White Illustrations | T & AD Poyser | Hardcover | 2012 | ISBN 9781408157251


This is the first comprehensive review of the hundreds of bird species and subspecies that have become extinct over the last 1,000 years of habitat degradation, over-hunting and rat introduction. Covering both familiar icons of extinction as well as more obscure birds, some known from just one specimen or from traveller’s tales, the book also looks at hundreds of species from the subfossil record – birds that disappeared without ever being recorded.

Julian Hume and Michael Walters recreate these lost birds in stunning detail, bringing together an up-to-date review of the literature for every species. From Great Auks, Carolina Parakeets and Dodos to the amazing yet completely vanished bird radiations of Hawaii and New Zealand, via rafts of extinctions in the Pacific and elsewhere, this book is both a sumptuous reference and an amazing testament to humanity’s impact on birds. A direct replacement for Greenway’s seminal 1958 title Extinct and Vanishing Birds, this book will be the standard reference on the subject for generations to come.

Julian Hume is an author and artist at the Natural History Museum in Tring, UK, with a long record of describing species new to science. An expert on the extinct birds of the Indian Ocean, he has dug for Dodos on Mauritius, searched for flightless pigeons on the Comoros, and undertaken many other research expeditions around the world.

Now retired, Michael Walters is the former curator of the egg collections at Tring.Fatbirder View:

It is an exceedingly sad testament that 1000 bird species have become extinct in one millennia of human history. Our impact on the world may be well chronicled in human history but it is only by such seminal works as this can one see how one over abundant, omnivorous and mobile species can dispatch so many other taxa without really trying (leaving aside such ‘pest’ species as passenger pigeon). On average, more or less one species per year joins the Moa, Dodo and Elephantbird never to be seen again… and its getting worse as we continue to exploit more and more land and less and less hospitable climes and bend them to our will, our ways and our profligate waste.

I fear it is a vain hope that this remarkable and scholarly work will tweak any conscience that could do anything to stem the flood. Nevertheless, I for one am glad to see it, impressive in its rigour the claim that it will be the singular reference is substantiated by the sheer weight of facts and detail the pages contain. One can only say Bravo! I will be dipping into this well of knowledge for some time to come.


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