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A Comprehensive Illustrated Field Guide: Birds of Africa South of the Sahara [Hardcover]

J. C. Sinclair , Ian Sinclair
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 759 pages
  • Publisher: Struik Publishers (Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1868728757
  • ISBN-13: 978-1868728756
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A major breakthrough 31 Oct 2003
Bird watching in Africa as always been divided to 3 main regions; west, east and south. Consequently, our knowledge of birds in areas outside of these classic boundaries is much more basic. This book is the first time ever that a field guide is aiming for the whole region - from 20 deg N up to 200 nautical miles off the continent shores (including Socotra but not Madagascar, Seychelles and other Indian and Atlantic Ocean Islands). Thus, promoting a more ‘holistic’ view of the African Avifauna and showing species that are less likely to be found in the more traditional field guides.
Many of the plates have been taken from earlier publications (Birds of Southern Africa, Struik 2002 and Birds of Prey of Africa, Struik 1998); others were commissioned specially for this project. Generally, there is a feeling of browsing in one of the SA field guides but with a widen species list. The quality of the plates is always a matter of taste and as been said before, we the ‘birdwatchers’ are very hard to please! Like with other field guides, it is a very fragile balance between art and science and to catch a species ‘jizz’ is a very hard task indeed.
Most of the species have good illustrations that portray distinctive plumages, accurate and realistic and can easily meet the modern standards, some can almost ‘jump out’ from the pages - some Robins, Thrushes, Bulbuls and Canaries are just few examples for these. In some cases, diagnostic flight patterns are also displayed (Nightjars, Crakes, Ducks…). Still there are some that the illustrators did not manage catching the ‘jizz’ properly and missed out a good opportunity to improve earlier plates (some Swallows, Mousebirds, Larks, and Pipits can be examples for that).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
While I fully agree with the previous reviewer as to the variable quality of some illustrations, I still give this monumental work five stars. The mere fact that we now have a book that depicts all the species within the vast area covered in a decent way deserves praise. This would hardly have been economically possible without the recourse to the illustrations from previous field guides. At any rate, the book gives the intended most welcome overview. For those areas with good regional field guides, it makes sense, of course, to concentrate on those books.
By necessity, the texts in the present book are very short; but they are informative. The range maps do not differentiate by season; there are brief infos in the text, however.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superb coverage but some plates are inaccurate 12 Nov 2008
By Simon C
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Firstly the good points. The book covers the whole of Africa south of the Sahara including migrants. It weighs about a kilo but is still very useable as field guide. Its comprehensive coverage means it is the only real choice for somewhere like Zambia. The descriptions are brief but good enough and the distribution maps are fine. Illustrations of birds are by colour plates (far superior to photographs). The book is well laid out with the pages colour coded by species, importantly the text, distribution and plates are all next to each other for each bird.
After a couple of trips to Zambia I had made a few hand written notes in the book about accuracy of the colour plates. However, after a trip to Tanzania the number of comments I put in about inaccuracy increased significantly. Most plates are fine but there is a significant percentage that are not quite correct. Its not major things but details of the colours and tones. For example the most distiguishing feature of the greater blue eared starling is the prominent yellow eye, however, the plate shows this to be rather dull and not at all prominent. In Tanzania the guides were all using Fanshawe's East Africa guide and to be brutally honest, it is a far superior publication. I didn't notice any errors in the plates in Fanshawe's guide and also the number of plates per species is vastly increased (I recognise that this is not possible in a book covering a far larger area as it would be far too big).
So, if you want a single book to cover the whole of Africa or are going somewhere (eg Zambia) that is not covered by other guides then get this book. If you're going to East Africa then get Fanshawe's East Africa guide as its far superior. This book is good but it is let down by the accuracy of some plates.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Africa birds 7 Nov 2010
In my opinion "Birds of Africa South of Sahara" is the best field guide for birdwatching in great part of the continent. I used it with maximum satisfaction in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
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