Belonging on an Island Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i Daniel Lewis

Publication date:
12 Jun 2018
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156mm
23 b-w illus.
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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.

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

Winner of the Outstanding Academic Title for 2018 award sponsored by Choice

"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

“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

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