3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2014
Gerarad Gorman has long been regarded as one of the world’s top authorities on Woodpeckers and his new book emphasizes that. This new tome on the family is very detailed and lavishly illustrated with fantastic photographs from all over the world.
The introduction of the book covers taxonomy, distribution, anatomy, habitat, behavior, breeding, plumage and moult, food and foraging, flight, calls, drumming and the importance of woodpeckers. All presented in depth from someone with a keen knowledge of this family.
Following the introduction come the species plates. Each species is presented in taxonomic order by genera starting with the Wrynecks. Each genus is prefaced with a brief synopsis followed by the member species following. Each species is given several photographs showing the bird in general, and other habits or females where plumage is necessary. The text is interspersed around the photographs covering the identification, vocalizations, drumming, status, habitat, range, taxonomy and variation, similar species and food and foraging. There are also three color range maps showing summer, resident and winter ranges.
The photography in this book is incredible and shows some stunning shots of a very diverse and varied family with the most up to date text and taxonomy. This family guide is a welcome new take to the woodpeckers and an important addition to any ornithological library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2014
Woodpeckers inhabit a broad range of our planet's terrestrial ecosystems; from the northern boreal forests of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia to the tropics of Indonesia, Africa and South America and the temperate and desert regions of North America and Eurasia along with many island groups in between. To attempt to comprehensively capture the Picidae in a single photographic guide was always going to be challenging particularly as expectations are generally high given the advances in digital photography let alone the fact that many species, especially those in the tropics are poorly known. Yet here we have a book which has achieved just that and more besides. The lay out is very pleasing and the author and publishers are to be commended on the overall quality of the book. I particularly liked the leading page for each genus before the species accounts which are concisely produced with good sized distribution maps, and the opening chapters on taxonomy, distribution, anatomy, habitat, behaviour etc. have adequately condensed a wealth of information which can be further explored by following the extensive bibliography provided. The author acknowledges that the inclusion of 239 species will 'please some and displease others' due to the dynamic complexity of modern taxonomy, yet the fact remains that this book offers a wonderful insight into a highly charismatic family of birds. The section on 'The Importance of Woodpeckers' also highlights how these species contribute to our own lives, acting as pest controllers and inspiring research into technologies surrounding health and safety while also giving pleasure to many of us who encounter them in the wild. So whether you are a keen birder, have a general interest in natural history or are a conservation biologist, Woodpeckers of the World has plenty to offer and inspire. Very well written by Gerard Gorman and beautifully produced with stunning photographs, the blend of high quality portrait and behavioural shots is quite remarkable ( e.g. the nest sequence shown on page 21). All those involved in the book’s production are to be congratulated. Highly recommended.
on 24 December 2014
This is the first definitive photographic guide to the woodpeckers of the world. Until now, apart from Handbook of the Birds of the World, the two standard works on the family have been by Short (Woodpeckers of the World, 1982, Delaware Museum) and that by Winkler, Christie & Nurney (Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World, 1995, Pica Press). Back in 1995 just 214 species had been described, and in 2002 only two more were included by the same authors in Handbook of the Birds of the World. However this new book describes 239 species – bringing it almost completely in line with the IOC Checklist, but at odds with all the others.
In recent years there has been a surge in splitting of some groups. For example, within the Oriental region six extra species have been proposed within the genus Chrysocolaptes and in the Neotropics there are a further five being suggested within the genus Piculus. No English names have been proposed for the latter group, so the author has liaised with Brazilian ornithologists to put forward names – although it remains to see if these are accepted by the taxonomic community. Closer to the UK, the adoption of the shapei race of Green Woodpecker Picus canus as Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus sharpei will surprise a few - although not if you follow IOC.
The format and presentation is similar to Owls of the World – a sister volume in the newly-developed Helm Photographic Guides series. A 20-page introduction provides a brief overview to the woodpecker family, and given that it is liberally illustrated it is very much an overview. The species texts are then divided into the 29 genera, which are treated separately. This really works well to emphasize how the various groupings differ from each other while being superficially similar. Each species text provides detail on identification, vocalisations (and drumming), status, habitat, range, taxonomy and racial variation and food. There is a colour distribution map for each species.
For most people the big draw will be the high-quality photographs that illustrate each species. Over 200 photographers supplied images for the book and it is hard to find a page that does not have a photograph on it. These are really excellent and there is not a single photograph I would have rejected. A big effort has been made to find images of both sexes for dimorphic species, and in some cases juveniles are also shown.
Two potentially extinct species are included - Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis and Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis (last reliably seen in 1956 and 1987 respectively). No illustration of either is included, which is a shame. There are good specimens in museums that could have been shown.
References are mostly restricted to those published since 2002, but this still results in details of about 350 papers.
This is a really attractive book, which is well designed and provides concise information without compromising on quality.