Birds of New Zealand by Julian Fitter and Don Merton
Sad facts for New Zealand, and the world, is that since the arrival of people in New Zealand (about 800 years ago), some 41 species of bird have become extinct.
Today several species are only surviving thanks to intensive conversation measures and thanks for people such as Don Merton QSM – who unfortunately died in April 2011 before this book was published. I only met him once, but I, and other NZers value the work he did for us and our wildlife.
While we have lost many species and the forest no longer echoes with wonderful birdsong, the bird life in New Zealand is still remarkable with much of it being not just endemic, but unlike anything elsewhere.
The Kakapo, the world’s largest parrot, and the Takahe, the largest member of the Rail family, are two flightless examples of birds unlike anything else in the world. Other good examples are the two wattlebirds, the Saddleback and Kokako. All of these would probably be extinct by now were it not for recent intervention by dedicated conservationists, by people such the authors of this new book, Birds of New Zealand.
Birds of New Zealand (ISBN 1869508513)
is a beautiful photographic guide featuring all 350 species of bird you can possibly see in New Zealand, illustrated with over 600 full colour photographs with full descriptions of all native species and the regular visitors: it is a wonderfully practical book that no bird spotter or nature enthusiast should be without.
This book is not just a guide to identifying the native birds: it is also a wake-up call to look after them, to appreciate and protect them. As Julian says in his acknowledgements, ‘the real thank you has to go to the amazing native bird life of Aotearoa New Zealand, for being so special, and so different. My one hope is that this book will do just a little bit to help you survive and prosper. You have had a rough 800 years and you deserve better.’
Julian Fitter is a conservationist, naturalist and writer with a special interest in island ecosystems. He spent 15 years in the Galapagos Islands where he established and ran the islands’ first yacht charter business. In 1995 he was instrumental in setting up the Galapagos Conservation Trust which has grown to be a significant supporter of conservation programmes in Galapagos. He is the author of a number of books on birds and wildlife, including most recently, New Zealand Wildlife and Bateman’s Field Guide to Wild New Zealand.
Don Merton is a name that is synonymous with bird conversation, worldwide. He started work with the New Zealand Wildlife Service in 1957 and retired from the Department of Conservation in 2005. The survival of several species, including the South Island Saddleback, Kakapo and Black Robin owe a lot to Don. The techniques he and his colleagues used to ensure their survival, are now in use around the world and have helped countless other species in the fight to prevent their extinction.
NOTE: Another new book worth checking out by nature lovers is the COLLINS FIELD GUIDE TO NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE Terrence Lindsay and Rod Morris