Most helpful critical review
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Every species, but some don't get the full treatment
on 2 July 2014
Hummingbirds make up the second largest family of birds in the world, and depending on whose checklist you follow (this book follows Howard & Moore, 2013) there are around 338 of them. This book sets out to provide a description of each one together with brief information on distribution, habitat, size and status. A colour distribution map is given for each species.
The main attraction for most people will be the photographs gathered from around 40 photographers. The largest contribution is by Michael Fogden, who with his wife Patricia, has spent much of his life writing about and photographing hummingbirds. Each image is “cut out” and shown against a white background, and while this rather clinic approach reduces some of the natural beauty of the images is allows each species to be compared on the same basis. All are shown at life size, but often just one sex is shown.
The text has been gathered by Marianne Taylor and Sheri Williamson, and this includes 22 pages giving an overview of how hummingbirds live. The main part of the book consists of species accounts in taxonomic order. However 76 species are not included here, but are placed at the end without any illustrations. The text explains that these are mostly rarely-seen species. That is true for some, but not others such as Reddish Hermit Phaethornis ruber and Black-eared Fairy Heliothryx auritus that are widespread and relatively easy to see. In a quick search on the internet I found photographs of many of these very quickly, so for them to be lumped in an “also ran” section is very disappointing and really devalues the book.