on 29 October 2006
The good news about this book is that it provides the most extensive coverage of the region, with the birds of all of Mexico and Central America being illustrated in a single volume for the first time. It is also very small, compact and light-weight.
Unfortunately - and predictably - the price to be paid for this is the quality. Illustrations are tiny, often just 2-3 cms in size, and usually dozens of them are crammed on one page. What's more, there are no "arrows" pointing out distinguishing marks between the similar species, making a bewildering page featuring 30+ tiny, green hummingbirds look like one of those "Can you spot the difference?" puzzles.
Text on the pages opposite the illustrations is extremely limited (usually 2-3 lines for each species), simply noting size, basic distribution and habitat info, plus maybe voice and a few key distinguishing features - though the latter are all too often replaced by the word "unmistakeable". With so many species on one page, often even this limited info has to spill over to the previous or following page!
Maps are tucked away in the back of the book, and are also very basic and small. They only show distribution very roughly, and often with the paint completely obscuring topographical features like country boundaries.
All things told, if you just want a cheap, basic and compact introduction to what this exotic region has to offer, this book may be good value. However for actual use as a field guide it is hardly the best, and it may well be worth investing into more guides that each cover a more limited region better.
"A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America" by Steve N.G. Howell seems to remain the best alternative with the widest coverage of this region.
on 18 November 2010
I concur with Laszlo Wagner's fine assessment, except that I think this book still does an excellent job that deserves a four-star rating. Being compact is a major virtue in a field guide, and if one visits several countries of Central America, weight limits become all too often an important consideration. I have not used this book in the field yet, but I'm presently finding it most helpful in preparing an upcoming trip. Adding the missing pointers myself in many cases. And I still recall the times when I had no illustrated field guide for a two month visit of Costa Rica. There have been a number of books since, but this one is the most compact one if one wants to cover several countries of the area.