Sunday, March 21, 2010

book review: The Birds of Europe

Princeton University Press has a new edition of a favorite field guide: Birds of Europe (Second Edition), by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, and Dan Zetterstrom (with text and maps by the former, and illustrations by the latter two). This excellent new edition meets all of my criteria for usefulness: highly-readable text, excellent layout, fine maps and beautiful, accurate illustrations that help the reader come to grips with the fine points of identification. I'll use mine on a trip to the UK next year, and the very packable size of this volume will be much appreciated. I'll use it here in North America as well; some rarities from Europe show up on our continent every year.

The artwork is especially well-conceived. One of the European species I always page to when looking through a new book is the Wallcreeper: the set of four illustrations for this species depicts this spectacularly-plumaged bird in both sexes, in flight, and on a vertical cliff in its rocky habitat. I'm amazed at the amount of visual information packed into a small space on the page.

The introductory section has a fine discussion on molt, and a kind of "shorthand guide" to relative abundance for the UK and Ireland that could be very useful if offered in North American field guides, although the sheer size of the geographic area of this continent would make portraying a range of abundance across vast regions a feat more difficult to attain.

If there is anything I'd still ask for, it would be a more durable cover. But that's not much. Highly recommended!

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