- Hardcover: 412 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Dec. 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691085293
- ISBN-13: 978-0691085296
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,180,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras Hardcover – 1 Dec 1989
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"A sophisticated treatment of one of the world's richest avifaunas."--Quarterly Review of Biology
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Top Customer Reviews
Either way, this book, although heavy and quite technical, proved an invaluable companion on my recent trip to Panama. I would say that it is not for the complete novice and the reader requires some knowledge of birds to be able to use it effectively (the writers acknowledge this in the foreword, and consequently it is written assuming this basic knowledge). But the plates served me well and the full descriptions were remarkably detailed and accurate, sometimes allowing for identification based on habits alone.
Truly a remarkable and comprehensive book. I do believe there is room in the market for a more lightweight book, with photos and more general information, however I am yet to find one of any substance.
This book is well overdue for a re-vamp but it's an essential guide to the area giving both the common names and scientific names with sub-species for those armchair ticks in the future. I bought my copy in preparation for a trip in April 2007 and I still reach for it from time to time when I dream about a return visit to locate that elusive Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo, a species which deserves a half page plate to itself.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book's a bit on the heavy side though. I usually go out birding for an entire day (6 am to 6 pm) carrying water, food, a camera and heavy telephoto lens, a tripod and binoculars. Even so, I've always resisted cutting out the plates, and end up taking the whole thing with me into the jungle. If the publisher were to make available a separate smaller booklet with only the plates, I'd definitely buy it. My back would be very grateful indeed!
Conclusion: If you're planning a birdwatching trip to Panama, you NEED this book!
1. Not all birds are represented in the color plates. None of the 15 swift species, for example, get an entry on the plates.
2. Some birds have no picture at all, not even a black and white line drawing in the text. Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, for example.
3. The index is incomplete. Try finding a saltator in the index.
4. There are two sets of plates. Most birds are in the first set, but there is a seemingly arbitrary set of birds relegated to "additional" plates near the back of the book. This makes it hard to do the tried and true method of scanning plates to help you quickly identify the bird you just saw.
So as a field guide this book probably merits only 3 stars. But to be fair it's not labeled as a field guide, but rather a "Guide to the Birds of Panama." Given the high quality of the text, it fills that role nicely.
Significant problems with this book that hopefully a future Panama bird guide will address:
1) There are no range maps showing the distribution of species in Panama. There is a text description of the range for each bird, but this is vastly inferior to a map, especially for someone who is visiting Panama.
2) Immature birds are not illustrated, and females are poorly illustrated: often with just a drawing of the head. The coverage for the Euphonias is especially poor with no illustration of the commonly encountered immature male Thick-billed Euphonia (looks like the female, but with the black mask and yellow head spot of the adult male), and only a head illustration for the male Tawny-capped Euphonia without any illustration of the female Tawny-capped Euphonia to assist in distinguishing it from the similar (illustrated) female Fulvous-vented Euphonia. Female hummingbirds are also mostly absent, or only shown with an illustration of the head.
3) The paperback version has an extremely heavy binding and is too heavy for all but the most athletic birders to take into the field. I saw many people who had resorted to cutting the illustrative plates out of the book, binding those, and carrying that into the field. If you are planning to stay at any hotel billing itself as a birdwatching site then you don't even need to bring this book with you to Panama as you will be better served browsing a hotel copy at the end of your day. The book is more useful as a reference work before and after your trip to Panama.
4) A minor complaint, but given that almost all groups of birders in Panama include native Spanish speakers it would be helpful to have the common Spanish bird names included in the text along with the already included common English and scientific names.