Tuesday, August 31, 2010

review of new field guide: Birds of Australia

The new Eighth Edition of The Birds of Australia (Princeton University Press) is an innovative example of a field guide with features not found in many other books. Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day, with Peter Trusler have produced a book that raises the bar for the next generation of birding field guides. The 132 color plates are excellent, detailed range maps are what we've come to expect - but what sets this book apart is its superb scheme of organization, including the following unique elements:
a) A section on vegetation and land form habitats of Australia, called "where the birds live".
b) Breeding information, organized by family, with the calendar year detailing the month in which the groups described are known to breed. Australia's birds are closely tied in many cases to seasonal rainy periods, but there are months in which the species primarily breed, and then for some a secondary breeding period.
c) The "Vagrant Bird Bulletin" focusing on the rarest species.
d) A set of Australian Island territories bird checklists, for islands not yet visited by most birders, and needing more information.
e) A useful set of Appendices, including an excellent "Hints for Birdwatchers", and a Glossary.
f) A list of birding and naturalist organizations, and
g) a bibliography the authors call "The Core Library" arranged by important topics.
All in all, this is one of the best guides I've yet seen. The successive editions have exhibited continual improvement.

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