The Bottom Line
Birds of Aruba, Curaçao & Bonaire is a compact yet comprehensive guide to the birds of this trio of often overlooked islands. With both South American and Caribbean birds visiting the islands, this area can be a diverse and amazing place to birders to visit, and while the illustration quality of this field guide does leave something to be desired, its convenient size and usefulness in the field do make up for it, earning this field guide a place in every Caribbean birder’s field bag.
- Compact and lightweight volume ideal for easy travel to these Caribbean islands.
- Well constructed for convenient field use, including a species checklist.
- Thorough introduction provides a comprehensive orientation to the region and its birds.
- Illustration quality varies widely with some illustrations so rough as to appear juvenile and distracting, though all field marks are adequately represented for bird identification.
- Lacks any individual range maps but species accounts do briefly describe each bird’s preferred habitat and basic distribution.
- Title: Birds of Aruba, Curaçao & Bonaire (Princeton Field Guides)
- Authors: Bart de Boer, Eric Newton and Robin Restall
- Publisher: Princeton University Press
- Publication Date: February 2012
- Format: Softcover
- Bird Artwork: Illustrations
- Dimensions: 8.5" (21.6 cm) tall, 5.5" (14.0 cm) wide, .39" (1.0 cm) thick
- Page Count: 176
- ISBN: 978-0-691-15336-0
- Price: $27.95
Review - Birds of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire
The Caribbean islands are home to a colorful and diverse avifauna, and the trio of islands off the coast of Venezuela have the advantage of attracting both birds from the Caribbean as well as tropical species from South America, making Birds of Aruba, Curaçao & Bonaire a necessary field guide for anyone visiting this unique crossover region. Caribbean field guides often leave out South American birds and South American field guides often overlook Caribbean species, but this field guide blends both together for a colorful and comprehensive look at these islands’ birds.
The guide’s introduction is as diverse as the birds in the region, offering an orientation to the region that includes brief ecologic, geographic and human history overviews of the islands. A discussion of the area’s unique flora and fauna is included, with an emphasis on the avifauna. Information on how to use the book is included in the introduction, and the parts of a bird diagrams on pages 15-16 will be especially useful for proper bird identification. Even more impressive are the island maps on pages 17-19 that include brief descriptions of each island’s most notable birding hotspots, including the most common and desirable species found in each location. Brief conservation information rounds off the introduction.
More than 280 species are covered in this field guide, and each individual species account includes adequate information for proper bird identification. While each account does not include every piece of possible information, the most common details listed for each bird include:
- Scientific, common and local names
- Bird size measurements including wingspan where appropriate
- Key field marks with most prominent marks bolded and italicized for easy reference
- Brief voice and habitat descriptions
No range maps are included in this field guide, but each bird’s basic distribution and presence on specific islands is noted.
The bird illustrations that accompany each species account vary widely in quality and detail. While each one does have the relevant field marks represented and can aid in identification, the drawings often lack finishing details that would provide a more realistic view of the bird. In some cases, the drawings can look positively juvenile and incomplete, though even those lower quality renderings do show the bird’s field marks. Despite the lack of some detail, however, the drawings show birds in a wide range of plumage variations, including both genders of dimorphic species, subadult plumages and various color morphs and subspecies where appropriate. That thoroughness makes this guide worthwhile as an identification tool, even if the illustrations will not be appreciated for any artistic appeal.
A checklist of the region’s bird species is included at the end of the book and features notations for which islands the birds are recorded on, though it lacks any blank space for notes or listing. A bibliography offers birders additional resources related to the region’s birds, and the guide’s index includes both common and scientific names for easy use.
Unlike many compact guides that sacrifice readability for portability, Birds of Aruba, Curaçao & Bonaire is a comfortable size without being too large or too small. The wide pages ensure that no text is lost in the margins, and the sturdy covers are pre-creased for convenience.
The trio of islands off the coast of Venezuela have long been overlooked but are becoming more noticeable, particularly among birders who are interested in seeing both South American and Caribbean birds in one destination. Birds of Aruba, Curaçao & Bonaire is a fine field guide to take along for such a birding trip, and while this guide won’t win awards for outstanding artwork, its thoroughness and easy use makes it a good choice for any birder traveling to this great location.