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110 of 110 people found the following review helpful
There are four main field guides to East Africa's avifauna. The oldest, the Collins Guide to the Birds of East Africa, is annoyingly spartan with its pictures, forcing the reader to identify birds via the text. In any case, not all of East Africa's birds are illustrated. Bird distribution is described in the text, and not via more simple to use maps. It was with precisely these shortcomings in mind that Van Berlow set out to illustrate every bird in East Africa (in this case, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania). His volume, The Birds of East Africa, does indeed contain a full set of plates, and provides extensive distribution maps. The pictures, however, are often small and difficult to discern, and the maps, all located in the back of the guide, accessible only via a rather complicated plate and species number system. The third contender, Zimmerman et al.'s excellent Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania falls short of requirement - in this case - because of its limited geographical range (through no fault of its own!). Another concern is the location of its distribution maps all placed in the text, often well away from the illustration of the bird. When standing in the field with a small and unremarkable avian in front of you, having to flick between illustration and distribution map is increadibly annoying, particularly when the bird then flies off.
Stevenson and Fanshaw's new volume is the fourth guidebook to enter this market and is by far the best. The illustrations are clear, distinct and beautifully detailed; distribution maps (covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) are located alongside each illustration, as is a short and succinct description, so no faffing about between illustration and text. The volume's hard cover makes it an excellent companion on tough birding safaris. I could not recommend this volume more warmly.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2002
I've bought several field guides to the birds of this region and this is by far and away the easiest to use for identifying your encounters on travels in East Africa. The plates are clear, with illustrations of male/female and immature variants. Also the description/narrative lies on the page facing the illustrations - this may sound obvious - but it isn't obvious to those who designed the page layout of the Collins field guide. The Collins has the plates on the centre pages and the narratives at the front and back of the book - this layout makes flicking through in the space of time your bird will sit still quite a challenge! Most of us don't have that kind of time, and would prefer to focus on the bird through our "bins", rather than keep our head in the book looking up several different page references.
I only have one criticism of this Stevenson & Fanshawe guide and that is that the goshawk illustrations somehow show the bird with v short legs, when the long legs are one of the key features you notice when you stumble across one.
I know this guide is more expensive than some of its competitors, but it is worth it.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2005
This field guide is superb and an enormous improvement on the other guides of the area that fall short with poor illustrations, less extensive geographical coverage and/or inadequate text. Critically it brings together in one place excellent illustrations, good maps and most importantly very detailed text. I found the text carefully crafted enabling even members of some of the more difficult groups (e.g. bulbuls and allies) to be relatively easily identified with clear notes to key field marks. It is a pleasure to use for extended periods in the field. My only suggestion for improvement would be to add a few more reference points to the maps.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2007
I own the previous edition of this book before it was published by Helm and Iam assuming that it is the same book (same cover!!)
I was inspired to write this review as I noticed that this book was not getting any love, compared to its nearest rival by Zimmerman. I used this book exclusively during 3 months travelling Kenya and Tanzania and though I did get to look at Zimmerman during this period I think this book is superior in a few small ways:
1. It has text and illustrations on opposites pages rather than a separate plates section. I realise that this is down to personal preference but when using a book as a field guide - having to flick back and forth from plates to text is a no-no for me!!!
2. The illustrations are better. Again subjective but I feel that they are more lifelike and vibrant.
3. It also covers Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
Needless to say this is a fantastic book and though Zimmerman is good, I would recommend this one - I certainly made lots of use of it. It was a constant companion and though quite big and heavy it was certainly robust enough to withstand intensive use in the field. This is possibly the 2nd best guide have owned and definately the best African guide I have seen (it also compares favourable with the Struik guides where they cover the same birds - the illustrations are much better in some cases).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2009
It's a fairly weighty reference book to carry with you but then there are rather a lot of bird species in East Africa! Format is similar to many other best in market field guides: good quality drawn images with sex/juvenile variations, summary of identification, location/habitat and activity traits plus a thumbnail image of the region showing distribution overview. Just right amount of detail to make it a readily usable field guide before, during and after a trip. Going to East Africa and keen on birdlife? Has to be the second thing you pack after your binoculars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2008
Others have already compared this book to the other East African field guides available, and I agree with them. It combines the high standard of illustrations of the old Collins guide (the same artist, Norman Arlott, was involved in both) with an excellent layout. In paperback version at least, it is sufficiently light enough to use in the field. We all seem to have plates that niggle us slightly, for me it is the birds with irridescent plumage, sunbirds and starlings, that don't seem quite right. Having said that, the illustrations are fine for identification which is, after all, the purpose of the book.

If you are heading to East Africa to watch birds, this is the book for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2010
I bought this book for a safari holiday in Tanzania. At first I wasn't sure I had made the right choice. There were a daunting number of species included, and it was a bit big and heavy. I couldn't fit it into a jacket/waistcoat pocket like my usual European guides. But as the holiday developed it became a friend - something to flick through as you sat back after a drive, as well an occasional reference during the drive. Anyway since most of the time we were in a vehicle, the weight didn't matter that much. It had exactly the right balance of detail, and its comprehensiveness was a real asset. The identification notes are brief but very to the point and helpful. One of our drivers - and the keenest on bird identification - used a copy as his main reference..and the book became a resource for our whole group (well those interested in the birds!).

Apart from the size (too many species from rainforest, etc, cluttering things up), I had only minor niggles. Sometimes names don't match other usage (it has no "masked weaver" mentioned anywhere, though this bird turns up on bird lists - I think this is an alternative to "lesser masked weaver" in the book). Maps sometimes give too broad a distribution, (eg marking all of Tanzania red, when clearly this could not be the case because of habitat restrictions). Overall very pleased with the purchase.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
We recently undertook a safari to Tanzania. Taking in the sights of Lake Manyara, Ngorogoro Crater & the Serengeti. We wanted a publication to identify the very varied birdlife we expected to see on our trip. It claims to contain details of 80% of almost 1300 species of the East African area, so this makes it a hefty but comprehensive tome. This proves to be both it's worth and its nuisance. On the negative, it is heavy so takes up most of your baggage allowance and if your not familiar with the types of birds, you can spend more time thumbing through the book rather than looking at the bird. But this is because it covers such a vast area. On the positive, it proved invaluable for identifying & confirming the variety of types. To be fair it was one of the first books to appear on the search and looked exactly want we wanted. There are books available specific to Tanzania, Collins do a good one, which may suit some who are just going to the one country. However, when there is a need to make detailed comparisons to positively identify species, this book was invaluable. My tip, if your a novice or going to one country, get something simple & specific like the Collins or get familiar with the layout of the book and the variety you will see, it will save you time in the field.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2008
This is the best field guide to the birds of East Africa. What more to say? Superb illustrations and succinct summaries have made this book invaluable for all my East African trips.
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on 26 February 2014
I bought this to accompany me on a safari to Kenya and was not disappointed with my choice. It replaced my previous East African bird book that had finally given up the ghost after many years of loyal service and I was a bit dubious to change to this but my worries lifted as soon as I received it. However, the real joy was using it in the field and it quickly became the "go to" bird book amongst my fellow travellers.
The text is crisp and concise and the drawings are beautifully clear.
Yes, the book is on the heavy side ( as frequently mentioned in other reviews ) but I found no difficulty packing it along with mammal reference books, camera, binoculars and clothing and still staying within the 15kg allowance for the light aircraft transfers between reserves. Practice in packing makes perfect and this book is as near to perfect as one can reasonably expect from a field guide.
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