Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Birds of the Middle East

Birds of the Middle East - second edition, by Richard Porter & Simon Aspinall must have been a fascinating endeavor to compile.  I'd love to hear the back-story.  I think of the on-going turmoil of the region and wonder how enough information about bird distribution across countries in conflict could have been gathered.  Perhaps the example of birders can provide an example of how to find unity.

With military family members regularly assigned to the middle east, this field guide will have to be lent to them with the requirement of reporting back to me as many of the 850 species mentioned in this guide as they can.  Knowing that they are not "birders", I approach this field guide asking, would this field guide work for a beginner?

First of all, this is truly a field guide based on size and weight; very practical for use in the field.  There is no fluff nor wasted pages in this field guide.  The introductory materials only take up four pages and their are no appendices.  That's how they fit so many species into a field manageable book.  The illustrations are very nice as are the range maps.  The color coding is unique, but easily understandable.  This guide certainly focuses on identification.  Physical characteristics of the bird are in a different and bold font in the descriptive text making them easy to pick out quickly.

The order in which birds appear in this guide stuck me as a bit different than what I am used to.  I read in the intro that the authors chose to use "genetically derived phylology" to determine which order to place the birds in.  Though I'm not totally sure what that is, it seems to work.  This field guide doesn't have the "quick index" common in North American field guides, but the index is adequate and bird names are bolded therein.

I can't wait to vicariously live thru my military relatives as they find me some new birds in the Middle East.  This field guide is perfectly suited to help people of all skill levels identify birds in the Middle East.  I also hope for peace in that region so that the world can enjoy the diversity of wildlife and habitat of the region.  The authors admit in the intro that some regions have "poor observer coverage" and some birds may be more regular than they currently know.  May that change soon!

Birds of the Middle East is another fine product published by Princeton University Press as part of the Princeton Field Guides series.  They provided me a free review copy.

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