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A Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras Hardcover – 1 Dec 1989

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

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Product Description


"A sophisticated treatment of one of the world's richest avifaunas."--Quarterly Review of Biology

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In spite of the abundance and variety of birds and the prevalence of eco-tourism in Panama, field guides and handbooks on the subject are remarkably scarce. That could perhaps be because this Ridgely/Gwynne tome is so comprehensive that it is perceived that there is no need for any other guide, or perhaps it is because the subject matter itself is so enormous it is a task too daunting to undertake.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although field guides have moved on in terms of quality since this book was issued in 1989 this guide still stands the test of time. The plates are mostly accurate and well set out without being too cluttered although some of the descriptions appear on a previous page & rather confusingly, some birds e.g. Nighthawks are only depicted in the main text and additional plates are found further on in the book away from the middle section. It's fairly heavy for a field guide and I've heard of some birders removing the colour plates for use in the field so if you have the resources buy two copies, one to cut up and other for the bookshelf!

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x95387828) out of 5 stars 35 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f3b3c0) out of 5 stars Best available field guide to the birds of Panama 10 Jun. 2003
By V. Burgett - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ridgely's guide is the best - and really the only - available field guide covering all the species of birds in the nation of Panama. While it is useful and serves most purposes, it has been over a decade since the second edition was released, and it is more than due for an overhaul and expansion. The most necessary would be the addition of range maps, that would make the book infinitely more useful in planning a trip. At the very least, there should be a single, detailed map of Panama, indicating the locations mentioned in the range descriptions! Also, it would be better to limit the scope of the book entirely to Panama, as Costa Rica and other areas to the north are covered by other guides, and the pertinent information for those areas in this book are scant, at best. Then, the isolated plates in the back need to be intergrated, as do the plates of Darien specialties, etc. Many species have been recently added to the Panama list, or split, etc, and those species need to be added. But, all this aside, this book should enable the identification of most Panama birds, and remains an indispensible resource for any birder traveling to that country.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95402edc) out of 5 stars A Review of "Birds of Panama: with Costa Rica, Nicaragua,... 31 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good, standard guidebook with beautiful bird plates. It is, however, somewhat awkward to have the plates divided into two groups at different places in the book. Three chapters ("Migration and Local Movements", Recent Developments...", and "Finding Birds in Panama") were especially interesting and helpful. The chapter "Finding Birds in Panama" was very accurate and useful to me. I wish I had purchased this guidebook before my earlier birding trips to Costa Rica. It is an important book for the entire region.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f3bf3c) out of 5 stars The only guide out there 16 Feb. 2005
By Cedric Kinschots - Published on
Format: Paperback
I visit Panama at least once a year, and this book is the first thing I pack for every trip. There's simply no other field guide out there. Although the book is over due for a thorough update (of both taxonomy and range reports), it's still the best source for identifying birds in Panama. All the guides and researchers that I've met over the years use this book. One of the most useful parts is the section that describes the best birding spots in Panama, as most of these places have remained largely unchanged. The plates are very good, more than adequate.

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!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f3b75c) out of 5 stars Strong overall with a few significant flaws 17 Aug. 2006
By J. Allison - Published on
Format: Paperback
The text in this book is excellent, with good descriptions of the various species and nice writeups of behavioral habits. However if you want to use the book as a field guide to identify the birds you are seeing, there are some flaws that make this hard to do:

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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f3b948) out of 5 stars You need it for birding panama, but not in the field 7 April 2008
By Marcus G. Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback
It remains the only guide specific to the birds of Panama so a birder headed to that country has almost no choice but to buy a copy. However, this is a 1989 update to a work originally completed in 1974 and it is sorely lacking many features that are incorporated into the "modern" field guides published in the last decade.

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.
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