Field Guide Reviews
our experience regarding the various field guides you may (or
may not) wish to pack for your Aruba trip.
Birds of the Netherlands
K. H. Voous,
de Walburg Pers, Utrecht. 327 pp.
This wonderful book,
now out of print for more than 30 years, is packed full of interesting
information about the status and life history of the birds of
not only Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao but also of Saba,
St. Eustatius, and St. Martin. This is the only book that covers
the identification and status of all of the birds of Aruba,
Bonaire, and Curaçao (as of 1983). The book is delightfully
rich, even meticulously detailed in some areas, and the information
is delivered with precision in a decidedly European style, making
it an enjoyable read in and of itself. The book is a little
weak in some of the species descriptions, including their vocalizations,
and the plates are not up to today’s field guide standards.
Thus, some may find the book a bit difficult to use for field
identification. We have a great fondness for this book, which,
incidentally is of exceptional physical quality, having withstood
our many years of visiting the island. This great resource can
be found through used booksellers both conventional and online.
Birds of Venezuela. 2003. S.L.
Hilty, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 878 pp.
This amazing book
raises the bar for South and Central American field guides.
The plates combine those from the previous addition with new
ones, and most are excellent (those by Guy Tudor are particularly
stunning). But the text and range maps are what make this book
especially incredible. Although its bulk makes it unwieldy as
a field guide, this book is the best publication available concerning
those species found on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao that regularly
occur in Venezuela. It is also indispensable for birders wanting
to prepare themselves for finding species from the mainland
that may occur less regularly on the islands. Keep in mind,
though, that not all species that occur on the ABCs are depicted
or included in this book, so don’t expect it to cover
all of your needs on the ABCs.
A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. 1998.
J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. Princeton University
Press, Princeton, NJ. 511 pp.
An excellent book that surpasses the classic Birds of the West
Indies by James Bond, perhaps most importantly because of its
up-to-date taxonomy and because of the status and larger number
of species depicted. This is the best guide available to have
with you when visiting any of the Greater or Lesser Antilles
within the Caribbean, and many of the species that occur on
the ABC’s are included. However, there are a number of
species from the ABCs that are not included in the book. Some
of the books plates are a little weak, and many of the species
accounts lack the necessary identification detail, which can
be a bit frustrating.
Wildlife of the Caribbean. 2014. H. A. Raffaele and J.W. Wiley. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 304 pp.
This new book by two of the authors of A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies is a fun all-in-one naturalist's guide to many of the plants, animals, and sea creatures that one may encounter in the Greater and Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean region. Only a sampling of each group (plants, birds, mammals, herps, insects, marine life) is included so it is not comprehensive but it gives a nice overview. The book includes some of the plants (mostly introduced species) that occur on Aruba and a few other terrestrial wildlife species and then quite a few of the tropical fish that you are likely to see if snorkeling or scuba diving on Aruba's reefs. The species accounts contains many interesting tidbits on natural history and conservation.
A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. 1986. S.L.
Hilty and W.L. Brown. Princeton University Press, Princeton,
NJ. 836 pp.
A great book, but not essential when birding on the ABCs, having
been superceded by the 2003 edition of Birds of Venezuela. A
nice reference, but we don’t pack it in our bags for the
long haul down to the islands, especially if Birds of Venezuela
is already packed.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third
Edition. 1999. National Geographic Society, Washington,
D.C. 480 pp.
A North American field guide is a must for birding on Aruba,
Bonaire, and Curaçao, as many of the species you will see are
wintering or migrant North American breeding birds. These include
shorebirds, terns, and warblers, most of which are not depicted
well or at all in the field guides covering the Caribbean or
South America. The National Geographic Guide was long the gold-standard
for modern field guides for North American birds. Although in
recent years it has, in some ways, been eclipsed by the Sibley
Guide to Birds, it still has better and more text than the Sibley
guide, and its smaller size fits better into the suitcase.
The Sibley Guide to Birds. 2000. D. Sibley.
Chanticleer Press, New York, NY. 545 pp.
As we mentioned, you
must take along a North American field guide when you visit
the ABCs. This one is currently considered by many to be one
of the finest available. The illustrations are exquisite and
wonderfully accurate, and much up-to-date identification information
is included. For those who prefer the text to do the explaining,
the sparseness of explanatory material may be a bit frustrating.
It is a bit like having a series of beautifully prepared museum
specimens laid out before but you have to do some of the work
yourself. Although we love the book, less experienced birders
may find it tougher to use. Sibley has also produced separate
guides to eastern and western North America that may alleviate
some of the problems with lack of explanatory text. However,
since anything is possible when it comes to birds showing up
where they aren’t necessarily supposed to, we recommend
that you bring along a guide to all of the birds of North America
when visiting the ABCs.
Our Birds. 1993. B.A. De Boer. Stichting Dierenbescherming,
Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. 120 pp.
This small book is
written for a local audience, making it an extremely important
outreach and education tool for conservation. It covers the
common birds of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. It is illustrated
with photos of birds from the islands, and each short species
account is provided in three languages (Papiemento, Dutch, and
English). Hard to get a hold of outside of the ABCs but, fortunately,
many local bookstores and resort gift shops seem to carry it.
- Guide to the Birds of Aruba. 1999. J.H. Reuter. STERN
nv., Aruba. 136 pp.
Another small locally
produced book that covers primarily the common birds of Aruba
with photographs. A checklist in the back of the book gives
the status of all bird species mentioned in Voous as well as
a few additional species recorded since 1983. Like the previously
mentioned book it is probably only available on the island.