Friday, July 9, 2010
Review: Field Guide to the Birds of Australia
Posted by Birding is Fun!
The fine folks of Penguin (Australia) sent me a review copy of the latest Simpson & Day field guide, the 8th edition. With all the updated information and the high quality presentation, this is the Australian "must-have" field guide for local and visiting birders alike.
There are a lot of great things about this field guide, so let me point out a few of them. Starting with the cover; it comes with an attractive dust jacket with wonderful paintings. Under that is a very nice vinyl cover. Finally!...a few publishers recognize the importance of making durable books that are often exposed to harsh field punishment! This waterproof cover also can be used to identify sea-birds by their bills in life-size diagrams. It must be that identifying washed-up dead sea-birds is another sub-hobby of birding in coastal areas. I'd love to do it myself!
The 132 color plates of the birds are really top notch. They are pleasant to look at and I can see that they would serve well to help birders identify the birds down under. In many cases the birds are shown in their typical habitat. 900 black and white drawings give additional useful i.d. tips for most species. Each species has a fantastic distribution map and the symbols are quite easy to learn and follow. The descriptive text is succinct and well done with explanations of habitat, plumages, and other identifiable traits.
The before and after information in the guide are chock-full of great stuff too. I particularly enjoyed the section on breeding information and the "Key to families". I might suggest to the authors/publisher that they put the "Quick Index" next to the "Key to families" on a heavier card-stock type of paper so that it is more easily and more quickly accessed. The section on vegetation and landform habitats is very helpful, especially for non-locals.
Australia hosts some really amazing birds. So, when you go to check them out, don't forget your Simpson & Day 8th Edition field guide!