Oxford University Press, Small quarto, dustwrapper, 9 colour plates, 130 black and white photographs, text illustrations, maps.
Pratt, H. Douglas.
Part of the Bird families of the world series. Covers the Hawaiian honeycreepers in detail including life history, relationships, and evolutionary history. As with other volumes in the series, the work is divided into two main sections: an overview of Hawaiian honeycreeper evolution and natural history and the species accounts.
The Hawaiian honeycreepers, a subfamily found only in those islands, are the pre-eminent example of adaptive radiation in birds. From a single finch ancestor, dozens of species have evolved to fill niches that cover almost the entire spectrum of songbird adaptation. In addition to an array of nectar-feeders from which the group gets its name, they include grosbeaks, crossbills, seed-eaters, snail-eaters, ersatz nuthatches, faux tanagers, and even a Rube Goldberg woodpecker! Many are brightly coloured and sing spectacular and varied songs, making them a delight as well as a curiosity. The honeycreepers are a veritable textbook of evolution, with classic examples of nearly every aspect of natural selection including multiple -invasion speciation, convergence, character displacement, competitive exclusion, and co-evolution with plants. Sadly, they are also one of the world’s most extreme examples Of decline and extinction resulting from human activities, and efforts to save the remaining species are on the front line of modern conservation work. Hawaiian honeycreepers figure prominently in research on avian disease, captive breeding Of endangered species, and habitat preservation. All of these subjects are addressed by renowned authority H. Douglas Pratt in this new book, which will be a fundamental reference for evolutionary biologists and environmentalists as well as ornithologists and birders, Ethnologists will also appreciate the appendix by Sheila Conant on the role of honeycreepers in Hawaiian culture.
The book is in two parts, an overview of Hawaiian honeycreeper evolution and natural history followed by detailed accounts of all species, including those known only from prehistoric remains Nearly all historically known plumage variations are shown in seven stunning colour plates by the author, and the text is enlivened with numerous drawings and maps, as well a, black-and-white photos by acclaimed photographer Jack Jeffrey.