"Since 1600 some 80 bird species have become extinct. The author of this text has drawn on a wide range of sources for his accounts of these birds, their habits and demise, with evidence of preserved specimens brought to life by the eye-witness accounts of early travellers and explorers. Their stories are sometimes tantalizingly slight: isolated sightings of a single bird may be the only evidence that a species ever existed. By contrast, the expeditions of 19th-century naturalists are often well documented and their descriptions accompanied by detailed drawings and paintings. In more recent cases our knowledge about an extinct species can be so extensive that even the precise time and place of death of its last surviving member is recorded. Virtually all of the species documented here are illustrated with colour plates from archival sources, including the work of such acknowledged masters as Audubon, Keulemans and Lear. These artists often had the advantage of working from fresh specimens or even from living birds, and besides its beauty their work is a primary source of scientific knowledge in its own right."