Belonging on an Island


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Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i

Daniel Lewis

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A lively, rich natural history of Hawaiian birds that challenges existing ideas about what constitutes biocultural nativeness and belonging

This natural history takes readers on a thousand-year journey as it explores the Hawaiian Islands’ beautiful birds and a variety of topics including extinction, evolution, survival, conservationists and their work, and, most significantly, the concept of belonging. Author Daniel Lewis, an award-winning historian and globe-traveling amateur birder, builds this lively text around the stories of four species—the Stumbling Moa-Nalo, the Kaua‘I ‘O‘o, the Palila, and the Japanese White-Eye.

Lewis offers innovative ways to think about what it means to be native and proposes new definitions that apply to people as well as to birds. Being native, he argues, is a relative state influenced by factors including the passage of time, charisma, scarcity, utility to others, short-term evolutionary processes, and changing relationships with other organisms. This book also describes how bird conservation started in Hawai‘i, and the naturalists and environmentalists who did extraordinary work.

Daniel Lewis is Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology, Huntington Library, San Marino, California. He is also a lecturer in environmental history at the California Institute of Technology, and an associate research professor at Claremont Graduate University.

"The appalling story of the extinction of so many species of Hawaiian birds has been told, but a book devoted to the beauty of the birds themselves is a welcome event. Belonging on an Island will be both an elegy and an important record of what has been lost to us all."—W. S. Merwin

“The long and tragic history of the ecological transformation of Hawaii is presented in this book, and Daniel Lewis makes it readable, balanced, and thought-provoking.”—David Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds

“I doubt there is another book that covers the subject of the extinct and endangered birds of Hawaii so completely. The depth of research is impressive and reflects, in part, Lewis’ affection for the region.”—Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

“With insight, humor, scholarship, and love, Daniel Lewis illustrates how and why the question of who or what “belongs” somewhere is both deceptively complex and increasingly important in today’s Anthropocene world.”—Robert J. Cabin, author of Restoring Paradise: Rethinking and Rebuilding Nature in Hawai‘i

“Daniel Lewis tells the riveting back story to humankind’s colonization of the Hawaiian Islands. It is a story of extinct flightless birds, remarkable scientific personalities, and clash of cultures. Lewis’s fascinating story of Hawaii is, in microcosm, the history of humans on our fragile Earth.”—Bruce M. Beehler, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

“A richly detailed, delightful history of field ornithology in Hawaii, and a provocative perspective on the sometimes thorny definition of “native” species, engagingly told through the stories of four birds.”—Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey

Belonging on an Island is powerful. It makes important additions to our understanding of Hawaii’s birds and the people who cared most about them. This unique and informative book considers what it means for an organism to belong.”—John Marzluff, University of Washington, author of Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife

“In his new Belonging on an Island, the distinguished writer and historian Daniel Lewis offers a thorough and captivating introduction to the avifauna of his native state and how it has been affected by human settlers—and vice versa—over the millennia.”—Rick Wright, Vermilion Flycatcher

“Lewis’s ideas are well thought-out, frequently innovative, and coherently argued.”—Matt Merritt, Bird Watching

“This is the first book I know that treats the full complexity of the birds of Hawai‘i in such an interesting way. The writing and layout of this well-produced book are clear and easy to follow.”—Lance Tanino, American Birding Association’s “ABA Blog”

Winner of the Outstanding Academic Title for 2018 award sponsored by Choice
ISBN: 9780300229646
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
23 b/w illus.
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