Belonging on an Island

Daniel Lewis: Belonging on an Island. Yale University Press 2018


It took me about six months to finish reading this book, its content is just too frustrating sometimes.

The book is divided into four chapters, each is build around a special species of bird, the first around a bird that was extirpated in (pre)historic or rather pre-European times, the second around a bird extinct in recent times, the third around a bird that is nearly extinct, and the fourth around a bird that was recently introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.

When you have read about endemic Hawaiian birds before you came along a lot of names of persons involved with them that you will find again here in this book, and the four chapters are more or less about these people: those who discovered subfossil bones, those who collected and described Hawaiian birds, those who are or were involved in their protection and so on.

It’s just almost unbearable to read about the ‘Hui Manu’ Society and other such ‘clubs’ of bored housewives of rich businessmen of American and European origin that were convinced that the Hawaiian Islands would need more colorful and songful birds, because the native ones had just disappeared or were about to do so.

… on the other hand, the endemic Hawaiian Crow was seen as a pest, it was just not colorful enough and its song not pleasant enough.

It’s quite interesting to read all of that, all the different points of view by all the different people that now call these islands their home, but it is also sad, for example to read about the discovery of the ‘O’o’a’a and it’s extinction, it’s rediscovery, it’s next extinction, it’s re-rediscovery, and it’s final extinction … or may it be re-re-rediscovered some day? No,definitely not.

I can recommend this book, it is not about the birds themselves but about everything else surrounding them.


edited: 08.12.2018