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4.1 out of 5 stars117
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 4 February 2006
This is the book that I reach for before I go to sleep to review some of the birds that I have seen throughout the day - an amazing wealth of information is crammed into a page, and each page is dedicated to a bird. The drawings and artwork are OK, not up to Collins standards, and it would not be my first choice for a field guide, but for some interesting factual information about species that I have encountered. This is the one, and worth having just for that. I love it, and think that the RSPB have a very good and effective range of books out at them moment.
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on 16 January 2003
This is a very impressive all round birdguide. Most guides limit themselves to merely providing details about how to identify species, this book not only perfroms that function perfectly well but in addition offers notes on what makes birds fascinating - their ecology, habitats, conservation status and movements. So, for example, you are not only told how to differentiate between a male and female Grey Partridge but also that they have declined by 84% in the last 25 years and that this is linked to a reduction in suitable nesting cover on farmland and insecticide use. In this way the book gives more of a clear overall picture of British bird species than almost any other book I know. Do not buy this book if you intend to find the definitive identification guide. But for anyone looking for a book that will provide interesting general information about bird species then this is for you.
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on 4 February 2009
I ordered this as a modern version of the Hamlyn's and Collin's field study guides I have used for many years. My daughter wanted her own guide and we considered this alongside the RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds. The introduction says this is NOT principally intended as a field guide, yet when looking to choose one, this was the nearest I could find to my 'old faithfuls'.
So far as I have been able to determine (and I'm just an enthusiast not an expert) this is an acceptable update. It covers all the identification factors I would look for - appearance in flight, at different times of year, at different stages of development, description of calls, distribution areas, etc.
There is a section on bird topography (how to describe the 'parts' of a bird's physique and plumage) and also a section that links local, common, scientific and international names, so if you need a description of a Brook Ousel (Water Rail) or a Yarwelp (Avocet), they are there to be found.
The immediate difference is the colour photos rather than drawings of each species. Also it limits itself to 280 species that regularly occur in Britain and Ireland as residents or visitors so if you were lucky enough to spot an 'accidental' from Europe, you might not establish an identity. Then again, if you are good enough to know it is an accidental, you will have other guides available!
There isn't a species comparison page (for the various birds of prey for example) and I miss that - you would have to look at the entry for each possibility whereas my well-loved old guides had a comparison page that showed the outline given by all comparable species for quick identification, then turn to the detailed entry for more information.
Ultimately, my daughter chose the pocket edition, specifically because of its size, but I liked this enough to keep it for the car.
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on 17 February 2005
The RSPB Handbook of British Birds is an excellent all-round bird book with many topics not discussed in ordinary identification field guides. The main purpose of the book is to give you a better understanding of the birds in the book with sections on habits, movements and migrations and conservation which gives you an idea of what is causing decline and what can be done to prevent it. It also includes some rare birds frequently seen in Britain such as the Night Heron, Ruddy Shelduck and Scarlet Rosefinch. Wherever possible the book has tried to give as much detailed information as possible, for example instead of saying that a kingfisher eats fish, it gives a good description of the different species of fish taken. All round it is a very good book with some excellent illustrations and good up-to-date maps. An excellent addition for anyone with an interest in birds. Well worth the buy!
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on 26 March 2010
Excellent handbook with superb illustations and crammed with up to date information.
As a 'returning' birdwatcher (albeit with less time & poorer eyesight!) this handbook has proved to be an excellent guide. Kept in the car...its useful as a reference guide just for watching from this 'hide' or carrying with you out of doors.
Very useful endcovers fold into the book which then bookmark your page(s).
Perhaps a little bulky for some outdoor clothing pockets but no problem with most anorak type clothing.
Perhaps could contain more comparison pictures of similarly looking species but this would make the book too cumbersome and bulky.
Overall a very useful tool for novice birdwatchers and those with medium experience.
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on 12 December 2013
I purchased the Kindle version of this book, however, it appears to be more of a PDF type of book. It is completely non-reformattable - you cannot change the font size, orientation, line spacing, etc. You cannot search the book for keywords and the index is so small that it is almost impossible to accurately select the required page on a 7" tablet. The illustrations and content is good but the text size is very small and cannot be changed. Good book but only as a paperback.
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on 20 January 2010
This is the best general purpose reference book on British birds that I have found (and I have bought half a dozen). It works well as an identification guide not only due to the execellent illustrations that highlight key identification characteristics, but also because of the detailed descriptions of both variations between males, females and juveniles (and where appropriate eclipse plumage) together with information about both behaviour and habitat. In addition it provides a good range of additional information about each species to increase the readers knowledge of a range of issues including UK populations and distribution, migration, and breeding.

I have bought copies of this book not only for myself but also for friends - it is that good!
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on 17 November 2013
The paper version of this book is wonderful, so, when I saw there was a Kindle version available, I bought it immediately. Unfortunately, the Kindle version is dreadful. Rather than convert the book to the normal (i.e. proper) Kindle format, they have chosen to implement this in a format designed primarily for comic books. In other words, they have scanned each page of the paper book, and broken it into panels that you can click and zoom in on. Why on earth would you want to do that with a bird book?

All of which means, you can't adjust the size of text in the book, navigating the book's pages is a total pain, and the memory required to store the book is massive. A huge disappointment.
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on 20 December 2013
Having read the reviews warning of the slow loading time etc., I decided to purchase but download on my PC instead. The download failed because it is not compatible with the device. If you check the Amazon page there is list of compatible devices listed in a 'pull down' list so to be fair we are warned but not in a very obvious way.
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on 14 July 2010
This is the best bird book I have seen. Although the type is necessarily small to accommodate so much information on one page, it is still very clear and easily read. It is very convenient having all the information on the same page as the excellent illustraions. I don't see how it could be improved upon.
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