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The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand [Hardcover]

Barrie Heather , Hugh Robertson , Derek Onley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Sep 2000
This in-depth guide to field identification is officially endorsed by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand. Every New Zealand bird species is represented in colour and has details on distribution, habitats, populations, conservation, breeding, behaviour and feeding habits.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (NZ); 2nd Revised edition edition (28 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670893706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670893706
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,236,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

About the Authors: Dr. Barrie Heather is a renowned New Zealand bird expert. Dr. Hugh Robertson is at the Department of Conservation in Wellington, New Zealand. Derek Onley is a leading New Zealand bird artist. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best NZ field guide - with room to improve 7 Mar 2005
The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand is the best field guide to NZ birds available! It covers all birds normally found on the North and South Island as well as on Chatham and Auckland Islands and others. It describes the birds, their appearance "jizz" and moulting in words that everyone will understand and find interesting and provides decent maps of migration, habitat, breeding etc. Compared to other books on the market this IS the benchmark!
However, I find the colours a bit off - they appear to be a little bright compared to studies in the field - and the texts suffer from lack of proof reading from time to time.
A more in-depth description of jizz would also have been appreciated as many of the native and/or sea birds in NZ only show themselves briefly and, especially if you're just visiting the country on a holiday, many birds can be difficult to establish 100% in the field without prior exposure - or good field guide descriptions.
All in all, I do recommend this book over any other book on New Zealand birds available! It comes close to the best of the European field guides!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like the Hand Guide but more informative 29 Oct 2007
Considering that you don't really get much for your money with the 'Hand Guide' version of this book compared to other field guides - I would definately recommend that you choose this book instead if you are a serious or semi-serious birder/naturalist as it is an informative read in its own right as well as an adequate ID guide.
It only gets 4 stars as the quality of illustrations and style of the ID guide section is good but doesn't compare to some of the best guides on the International market and as I explained in the 'Hand Guide' review, is perhaps not even required given the nature of birds seen in NZ.
See my review of the Hand Guide for some recommended places to visit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birding in NZ 21 Feb 2011
For a first visit to NZ this book was excellent. I am quite a keen birder and member of RSPB so I wanted a competent book. This book is a bit pricey but it certainly does the job. The colour pictures are exactly what you need for accurate identification and the text actually contains far more information than I have seen in other books about habitat, feeding, geographic distribution etc.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good Field guide 7 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This Field Guide was in constant use during our 5 week stay in New Zealand and certainly served its purpose. The illustrations and bird descriptions were good. The chapter on "Where To See Birds" could usefully be expanded.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definative field guide to New Zealand birds 14 Nov 1997
By A Customer - Published on
New Zealand is indeed fortunate in the number of bird books which have been published over the past century. Back in 1953, the Ornithological Society of NZ published a "Checklist of New Zealand Birds". In 1959, the Society approached RA Falla, RB Sibson & EG Turbott to compile a practical field guide.
In 1966, this appeared as "A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand", published by Collins. It rapidly became the bible for several generations of field ornithologists. Several revisions of the original field guide were made, up to 1978. They all grace my bookshelf.
Finally, in 1976, almost 20 years later, this new guide has appeared. It isn't quite as portable as the original, but contains a wealth of information. The guide is divided into two sections.
The first 150 pages are an indentification guide, with brief descriptions and distribution maps facing colour illustrations of the species. The remaining 260 pages provide much more detail on the distribution, population status, breeding and behaviour of the 328 endemic and introduced bird species found in New Zealand.
Barrie and Hugh are to be congratulated on the depth of research they have done to compile the text. Similarly, Derek Onley's illustrations give much better detail of recognition features than do most photographs.
This is the one essential book for local naturalists, or overseas birders visiting New Zealand.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive guide to birds of New Zealand... 17 April 2005
By Debby Ng - Published on
And I'm quite sure any Kiwi birder would agree with that. My review is of the revised edition of this book [ISBN 0670-89370-6].

This most certainly is the most complete guide to the birds of NZ with beautiful and accurate slates. I love its neat layout - slates on the right, description and ID on the left. There are no spill overs so its as simple as that. Where necessary, there are distribution diagrams with a detailed key which makes for very effective guide.

Because NZ birds are so unique, you will love the additional Handbook section which introduces the different genuses. This comes after the field guide, at the back of the book. Everything is very detailed and you can tell that this book has been crafted with alot of attention and care. Which must be why this is the only field guide to NZ birds officially endorsed by the Ornithological Society of NZ.

A downside may be that it's a little bulky to haul around the field, but using it is such a joy that this short coming is quickly compensated.

The book for any self-respecting and serious birder, and an indispensible resource for naturalists or the curious amateur.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not too pleased with artist renderings. 15 May 2014
By Muncie_Birder - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In my mind the most useful field guides show the birds in profile with no artistic license. We are not using the book to judge artistic skill. We are using the book to id the birds. This book seems more concerned with artistic rendering than in providing a useful field guide. For example the female Rifleman has its back to us. Has good descriptions and maps next to the drawings. Unfortunately, reading the text concerning the birds is very depressing because it is a repetition of how they are mostly all disappearing due to predation by introduced species such as cats and rats.

If you are thinking of going, you had better not think too long.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very succesful field guide with little taints 19 Feb 2014
By Feanor - Published on
I was completely satisfied with this field guide before my journey to New Zealand and after it. Compared to continental biodiversity, only a small number of bird species exist in New Zealand. I previously studied the book very extensive and many times so I was able to identify most land and coastal birds directly or at least put them in the right category. (This statement is unapplicable on seabirds because there is a great deal of them in New Zealand’s waters. Furthermore their way of life and the fact that observations are mostly very short make it harder to identify them.)
The book contains the birds of the main islands and all species of the outlying Pacific islands, which belong to New Zealand as well.

It is seperated in four parts:
A short introduction gives some hints about how to use the field guide.
The identification guide presents all species briefly and is arranged after bird families. Introduced birds are presented on separated pages. The species descriptions in this part of the book are brief and give information about size and weight, (seasonal) appearance, frequency, habitat, breeding period and sometimes vocal expressions. The distribution maps are detailed and not to small. Unfortunately they are painted only in red, so that they don’t give hints about sedentary birds, summer or winter visitors.
The illustrations are found on the opponent pages. Mostly 3-5 species are presented, so that the illustrations aren’t too small and the pages not too crowded. Where it is necessary, differences between sexes and maturity, juvenile, breeding and non-breeding birds, different phases/subspecies and flight images are shown.
At the end of the identification guide five species are presented, that are (probably) extinct since 1900.
The next part of the book, and with around 260 pages the longest one, is the handbook. Here the bird families and single species are presented in detail (mostly one page for each bird): different names of the bird, distribution (in the past and today), size of population, conservation, general and breeding behaviour, feeding and further bibliography. This is the part, which makes the book more than a pure field guide, because all kinds of interesting information can be found, e. g. how the population disperses on the whole distribution area (even specific places often are named); size of the clutch, incubation time, colour and size of the eggs; known age; detailed seasonal migration movements; ingestion; history of threat, decline, safeguard and it’s achievements; especially the passerines often include the section “In the hand”, which describe the differences in sexes and age of caught birds – very useful for research.
Every species has an own number in the identification guide and in the handbook, so that it’s easy to find them in each section without the need of long searching.
The last part contains a short but good description of twelve hot spots for birding in New Zealand, including information about localities, data of organiser and birds to be awaited in the area.

Now to the criticism:
In my opinion the illustrations are the biggest deficit. Unfortunately they can’t achieve the quality of other field guides. They are not bad, but sometimes the plumages seem washy and some detailed parts of them are not shown very accurate. Furthermore the colours of some birds in the book don’t look the same as in reality. Good examples are the Blue Duck and Reef Heron. The Reef Heron is illustrated in a very dark grey. However in the field it looked very bright in a blueish grey colour. Therefore when I saw the heron at first I really was unsure about my identification, although it was the only logical possibility. Exactly the other way it is for the Blue Duck: In the book a very light blue-grey. But on photographs it has a much more dark appearance, in a dark grey, partly brown, only with a blueish glimmer in the right light. So the colours of this two species could have been exchanged in the book to come close to the reality.
The colour of the Brown Creeper seems lighter in the book too, than I realized it in the field. On many photographs this bird also seems to be darker. This was the only bird I had to research photographs on the internet afterwards for the definite identification.
Sometimes some kinds of plumages are missing and a few seabirds are only shown from up side or bottom side but not from both, although this can be important for identification.
Unfortunately data of wingspan is totally missing and vocal expressions one time are described in the identification guide, another time in the handbook.

Of course I like the incomparable handbook. Such a mass of information is unusual for a field guide. And nevertheless the book weights 890 grams, which is not too much for taking it in the field.
Despite the moderate illustrations it altogether gets five stars, because it allowed a very good preparation of the journey and on the whole it was useful in the field.

(Mistakes in language and grammar may be excused, for English is not my mother language.)
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Satisfied 4 Nov 2013
By Rebecca Anderson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was our go-to guide while touring the South Island. The illustrations and descriptions of plumage and habitat were an integral part of birding this area. Although we were new to the area, the volume served not only as a "bird guide", but as a natural history primer for us.
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