Sunday, July 24, 2011


1) Pratt, H. Douglas. The Hawaiian Honeycreepers (Bird Families of the World). 2005. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 342 pages. Price: $260.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers are typified by nectar feeding, their bright colouration and canary-like songs. They are considered one of the finest examples of adaptive radiation, even more diverse than Darwin's Galapagos finches, as a wide array of different species has evolved in all the different niches provided by the Hawaiian archipelago. The book will therefore be of interest to evolutionary biologists and ecologists as well as professional ornithologists and amateur bird watchers. As with the other books in the Bird Family of the World series, the work is divided into two main sections. Part one is an overview of the Hawaiian Honeycreeper evolution and natural history and Part two comprises accounts of each species. The author has produced his own outstanding illustrations of these birds to accompany his text. This book features:
    *No book like this one on Hawaiian Honeycreepers is available
    *Part of Bird Families of the World series
    *Worldwide interest in these unique birds because of their evolutionary significance
    *New colour illustrations created especially for the book by author
    *Up to date descriptions of the species and their biology

RECOMMENDATION: As with the other titles in the Bird Families of the World series, this one is an excellent book. My major complaint about this series are the prices! These books sell for $225.00 U.S. and higher, so most people can't afford them! The most recent titles in the similar Helm series are about $100.00 U.S.. I don't know why Oxford University Press can't sell their books for $100.00 U.S.?

25 July 2011 UPDATE: I received this email from Murray Lord of Sydney, Australia:

The author of the book would agree with you - this is taken from his website. [And as I also got my copy via the NHBS sale I wonder what portion of the world sales occurred at that time?]:
     "I consider this book the most important thing I have ever done as a scientist. Unfortunately, Oxford's pricing policy, and their stinginess with review copies and advertising, has meant that fewer than 1,000 copies have been sold worldwide, with about a third of those sold by me to friends using my discount! Even libraries are reluctant to cough up the ridiculous king's ransom price, so my magnum opus has become a major disappointment for me. Warning to other authors thinking of publishing with Oxford."

MY RESPONSE:  As I understand it, Oxford will discontinue the Bird Families of the World series after they publish the Titmice volume (in 2012?). Perhaps then they will remainder the series (they remaindered the earlier volumes in 2002) and then people can buy the volumes at an affordable price!


  1. Ian,
    The prices, well, even in Europe they are equivalent. Every now and then booksellers will run specials on the books of this series. I do have this volume, and bought it several years ago through NHBS (U.K.) for the equivalent of ca. 130 U.S. dollars (i.e., half-price). Great monograph.

  2. For that money, I'd much rather pay a little more and get the corresponding volume of HBW! I've never seen a volume of Oxford's series, but I don't see how they could be worth that much.

  3. HI Grant et al.:
    I agree, if you can afford the about $306.00 U.S. for HBW volume 15, which includes the Hawaiian Honeycreepers (also by H. Douglas Pratt!) you also get:

    Family Ploceidae (Weavers) Adrian Craig
    Family Viduidae (Whydahs and Indigobirds) Robert Payne
    Family Estrildidae (Waxbills) Robert Payne
    Family Vireonidae (Vireos) David Brewer & Ronald Orenstein
    Family Fringillidae (Finches) Nigel Collar, Ian Newton, Peter Clement & Vladimir Arkhipov
    Family Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler) Jon Curson
    Family Parulidae (New World Warblers) Jon Curson.
    You can order the volume here: or at Buteo Books: