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4.1 out of 5 stars16
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 6 August 2009
In 1995 the first edition of this guide received mixed reviews. In many ways it was a step forward, providing a pocket-sized volume that illustrated 1487 species - not just from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, but also Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Socotra. However cramming up to 25 species on each relatively small page was never going to allow enough detail for this book to have a major impact, particularly when Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by Dale Zimmerman et al was due to arrive just a few months later. Where the Collins guide did add value was in illustrating a significant number of species that other books ignored - such as those found in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries. It was perhaps for that uniqueness that many people bought it.

So after 14 years Collins have now decided to reissue this guide and there is an opportunity to update the text, the maps and illustrations and add in any new species that have occurred since the early 1990s. Unfortunately Collins have chosen not to alter any of the 96 plates even though there are a number of errors that have been identified. I find it amazing that they have decided to recognize these errors by referring to them in the text but not by correcting them on the plates! There are around twenty such notes in the updated text. Some are relatively minor errors such as the wrong eye colour (although surely easy to correct?), but others are more significant. For me it is simply not acceptable to reissue a field guide with illustrations that are known to be wrong. Take Grey Apalis Apalis cinerea as an example - the text reads "Upperparts all very dark brown, mantle slightly more grey (no buff-brown plumage parts as wrongly shown on plate)." There are plenty of such examples.

Taxonomy and nomenclature in the first edition followed early volumes of The Birds of Africa (itself sometimes at odds with modern thinking). With this new edition a number of names have been adjusted to reflect recent changes - for example some Serins are now Seedeaters or Canaries. Herring Gull Larus argentatus was listed originally and this has now been changed to Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini, but is still described as Larus argentatus. It is shown with pink legs rather than green - another error that is mentioned in the text. Also this is still the only book I have that uses the name Sylvietta for what most people call a Crombec.

A number of species have been added to the East African list since the early 1990s but these have not been included. Similarly the discovery of Karamoja Apalis Apalis karamojae in the Masai Mara, Kenya is not mentioned. There are other examples where new information on distribution has been ignored. The first edition overlooked Southern Blue Waxbill Uraeginthus angolensis which breeds in Southern Tanzania. Now it is mentioned in the text but no illustration of it has been added.

For many people the value of the first edition was that it was the only modern field guide to include all the birds found in Ethiopia. Any time now Birds of The Horn of Africa will be published and that will become the book to take to Ethiopia. As a result this Collins guide has lost its uniqueness, and now with heavier guides appearing in softback the advantage of its light weight has been reduced too.
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on 13 November 2000
I took this book with me for a two week family holiday in Kenya where I visited Tsavo game parks, coastal regions and also went on a bush walk near Mombasa. As a beginner to African birds I found the illustrations and brief descriptions very helpful and in some cases it was superior to the larger reference books that I had studied before I went. It is light and compact for carrying in a map pocket or similar and the paper and binding has stood up well to the sweat and constant thumbing through. Although some names of birds may be unfamiliar to seasoned birders the general layout and classifications fit an established pattern and the index of Latin names helped with other identifications. Some juvenile plumages are shown and the call descriptions are very good. My only problem was that some birds are shown bigger than others when in reality they are smaller. Not an easy thing to sort out when bouncing in the back of a safari bus.
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on 13 April 2002
I visited Ethiopia for two months and covered a lot of ground on foot. The size of the guide made it possible to take everywhere when weight was at a premium. The book was designed to be compact for this, i think , so in many respects was lacking in information such as views of birds in flight, and eclipse plumages of whydahs and widowbirds. Some information on calls was missing for some Ethiopian endemics but I assume that this was due to them not being known to the author. Some pictures were also misleading such as in the eye colour of abbysinian slaty flycatcher ,which is pale, and the honeyguides are difficult also. But overall made it possible for a novice african birder to enjoy the trip immensely. I still look at the book to see what I missed and plan a return trip.
Because of the extra concise nature of this book, i would recommend that its use is supplemented by the larger 'Birds of east Africa' which, in the case of Ethiopia, contains more information on most of the birds found here but would be very difficult to carry when trekking. The book still enabled identification of over 300 species in 2 months of travelling, and is essential to a birder to this country of incredible diversity such as 12 nightjars, 20 starlings, as many doves , 6 endemic serins and 6 hornbills to name but a few!
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on 10 January 2011
This was a present for several members of my family fro Christmas 2010. They are all delighted, experts and amateurs alike. The illustrations are excellent.
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on 7 March 2013
I was most happy to be able to use the Collin's Birds guide in Ethiopia. The drawings are good, albeit somewhat small, but the result is a relatively light compact guide. Moreover what is really good is the presence of a map per bird species, and totally phantastic is that the guide covers Ethiopia, what is not the case with other guides on East Africa.
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on 18 January 2014
some drawings are better in other books but this one has more varieties of some birds too so it's swings & roundabouts. this is a good use. if there's more than one of you, take this one plus a different edition so you can compare
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on 12 November 2015
I was disappointed. I think it is probably only really useful for Kenya. The information for Ethiopia is old (1971) and we saw many birds there which do not appear in the book.
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on 23 January 2013
Even though it covers only half the birds of the region it is very well put together, with excellent drawings and concise comment. All in all a decent addition to my library.
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on 25 February 2014
Absolutely fantastic book. really helped me identify the birds I saw on my holiday to Kenya. The pictures are clear and makes identification easy.
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on 8 November 2012
This book was perfect for our safari trip in Kenya. It was easy to find the birds I needed to indentify even bumping around in the back of a 4x4!
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