Guide to Birds of the West Indies

i-2f51ca83014b35de7d97723f26b9152d-westindiesbird-thumb-300x436-65557.jpg The West Indies includes the Lucayan Archipelago (Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands); the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola [Dominican Republic and Haiti], Jamaica, Cayman Islands); the Lesser Antilles (Leeward Islands [the Virgin Islands of Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, Saint John, Water Island, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke], Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Antigua, Barbuda, Redonda, Saint Martin, Saba, Saint Eustatius, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat Guadeloupe); the Windward Islands (Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago), and the Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao. amd Bonaire). I may have missed a few.

Otherwise known as the Caribbean Islands, for the most part these islands are all high points on a large inland sea (which is mostly open to the ocean). It is the wintering grounds as well as the year round residence of numerous birds. If you live in the central or eastern US or Canada, a lot of birds show up in the spring; Many of those winter in the Caribbean. Of these birds, most, about 550, are nicely depicted, Peterson-style, in Norman Arlott’s abbreviated “checklist” style Birds of the West Indies: (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)

This book does not have much front matter telling you about bird watching, bird biology, bird ecology, or bird conservation. It dives right in to the plats and descriptions, which are organized by basic bird type with between 5 and 10 or so bird species per page (and more drawing where necessary). This is probably good if you are, say, a US based tourist and want to bring the bird book in your luggage and don’t need to learn what birdwatching is on your two week trip to Jamaica. For those who want more, consider A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, which I have not seen, but that is by the same author and which is, according to the publishers, more than twice the pages and of a somewhat larger format, and quite a bit more expensive (but surely worth it if you live in or regularly visit the region).

The range maps, which are very important as the biogeography of the West Indies is complicated and interesting, are all at the back of the book. At first I thought this would be annoying but it is in the end necessary: Many birds occur on some tiny cluster of islands … as it is the maps are as small as they can be without losing utility, and at this size they are too big to put with the birds, if one also wants to have appropriate groupings of similar birds.

The drawings are high quality, the stock and binding are sturdy (I’ve got a paperback) and the book is in the standard field guide size range. If you are going to the West Indies and you’re a birder, you’ll want this.

Comments

  1. #1 Gerald Singer
    June 3, 2011

    Geographically the Virgin Islands are part of the Greater Antilles being among the archipelago of small islands and cays that lie on the Puerto Rican Bank east of Puerto Rico. They include the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques and the United States and British Virgin Islands with the exception of St. Croix. The Virgin Islands are separated from the Lesser Antilles by the deep Anegada Passage

  2. #2 Eunoia
    June 5, 2011

    Of course, the alternative (but older) reference book on the subject is “Birds of the West Indies” by a certain
    James Bond (ornithologist) (1900–1989) :-)

    He was the man from whom Ian Fleming ‘borrowed’ the name for his spy stories.

    Not many people know that, so I thought it worth a mention here Greg :-)

  3. #3 Rob
    June 5, 2011

    The guide Greg links to is by the same publisher (not author) and has a portable spinoff (here: http://www.amazon.com/Birds-Indies-Princeton-Field-Guides/dp/069111319X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b). Not being a fan of any of the illustrated checklists (the areas covered are generally too big for the small size of the books), I would use and recommend the Raffaele guide for a West Indies trip.