Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Parrots of the World

There are certain families of birds that seem to capture the hearts of all people, like owls, hummingbirds, and maybe even woodpeckers.  Parrots are right up at the top of the list.  Their amazing array of colors evokes the mystique of the tropics.  Oh sure, you've seen a dozen varieties of parrots in the local big box pet store, but did you know that there are almost as many species of parrots as there are days in the year?!  If you would like to know how and where to see all of them in the wild, "Parrots of the World" is the ideal field guide for you!

Before I even cracked open the book, I asked myself, "What would I want to know from a field guide on Parrots?"  My answers were simply: where in the world I would find them, and what kind of habitat would they be in.  I am delighted to see that most species include very specific localities, even the name of the park, refuge, or sanctuary wherein one is mostly like to see them.  Every species has notes about habitat and even the probably altitude where they would reside is provided.  The maps also detail ranges to the smallest pinpoint.  Joseph Foreshaw certainly knows how to play to an audience of adventurers seeking to enjoy the beauty of parrots!

While I typically prefer taxonomic organization in field guides, given the specific focus on parrots, the geographic breakdown into three regions is perfect: Afro-Asian, Australasian, and Neotropical. These regions are color-coded for easy reference. While range maps for feral populations of parrots in North America are not shown, they are given mention in the text for such species.  For example, the Peach-faced Lovebirds, native to western Africa, have thriving feral populations in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona and this is covered on page 156.

Frank Knight's illustrations are very nice and are skillfully done to assist us with identification.  Many parrots are shown in flight from a top and bottom view showing both the male and females in many cases.  Similar looking species are on the same or neighboring pages making it useful in comparing and contrasting.  The introductory materials and indices are all quite good.

Back in my missionary days in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Rios, Argentina, I remember seeing a few varieties of parrots.  Unfortunately, I wasn't yet a birder and didn't make any effort to identify them.  Images of them are still in my mind, though blurred by time.  As soon as I received this review copy from Princeton University Press in the mail I began scanning through the pages trying to identify the parrots that impressed me some 12 to 14 years ago.  Blue-crowned Conure, Monk Parakeet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, and even the Scaley-headed Parrot and Blue-fronted Amazon all seem like birds I recall seeing.  According to this guide's distribution maps, the range in north-central Argentina fits!  Then again, even Argentinos have pet parrots that often live un-caged in the yard.  I hope to return to visit some dear friends some day, and to take "Parrots of the World" with me to get a positive identification!

"Parrots of the World" was written by Joseph M. Forshaw, illustrated by Frank Knight 
Published in the United States by Princeton University Press.
List price is $29.95, but is available on Amazon for as little as $19.77.


  1. I wish you were closer - I would show you some Great Greys.

  2. @Bill S. Great Greys are really cool birds. I saw them only once near Donnelly, Idaho.