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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
13
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 16 April 2014
I've just taken delivery of Birds of Peru (Helm Field Guides) [Paperback].
At the risk of writing a review too soon (I won't get to try this in the field for at least 18 months at the very earliest!) I've decided to give my first impressions.
I chose this book because I already have (and have used) the equivalent edition for Costa Rica, which I rate very highly as a field guide and which follows a format that I am familiar with and prefer.
I actually bought my copy of Peru through the MarketPlace from The Book Depository and as a small aside I recommend them highly.
On arrival, the first thing to notice is the sheer weight of the book! It is very heavy in the hand, and I would argue it is pushing it for suitability as a field guide.
The more professional or serious amateur birders - I would categorise myself as the latter - would doubtless tolerate the extra baggage allowance required, but if you have just a casual interest in birds, you might want to opt for something a bit lighter, and less comprehensive.
It is a couple of centimetres longer and wider that the Costa Rica version, and its extra pages all add to the weight. Think of it as a somewhat oversized Collins Bird Guide.
This book is jam-packed to the rafters with well over 600+ pages comprising text opposite plates (the style I like) representing the 1800 odd Peruvian Species.
It does everything the Costa Rica guide does, and more, and most of it is done better.
Pelagics are included, maps are informative, extra little details are given (usually in code form) in the descriptive text, and the general impression I get is that it is a bit more "complete" than Costa Rica. Again think Collins quality (and perhaps add a bit!).
So does it have any shortcomings?
In my opinion it does.
If you are considering this as your choice of Peruvian Fieldguide, don't let anything I am about to say put you off... just be aware.
Have I mentioned the weight?
Well, they've done well to keep it so small!
By necessity, the text, maps and illustrations are on the small side. Generally, 7 or so species are dealt with in each page of text, and I have counted one occurrence of 24 illustrations on the adjoining plate covering various gender and age differences and colour morphs. This did not seem to be an unusual circumstance.
In addition, labelling of the illustrations is confusing at times, just because of the "clutter".
Also I feel many of the illustrations are not as good as they could be. I'm no expert, and certainly no artist, and my copy is untried in the field, so it's perhaps churlish of me to make such a subjective comment. However, I feel the Costa Rica plates are better, and I don't think it's a consequence of size.
Of course, do note that other reviewers disagree with my opinion!
And on matters of disagreement, I have no problem with the index.
So, is it worth shelling out close to 30 quid for this book?
It absolutely is. You'll probably need no other guide (although can you ever have enough?). Besides, compared to how far in debt you've gone to pay for you trip out to Peru... it's a snip!

****

Addendum:

I think I compared the text too favourably to Collins, the latter being more detailed and comprehensive. Nonetheless, the text in this guide is informative, if concise.

Still worthy of five stars.
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on 21 May 2013
This is a very good field guide, covering all species and all habitats in Peru - a very wide range from the high Andes to the Pacific coast, the desert and the Amazon rainforest. I've found it very helpful in pre-trip planning and it will be indispensible in the field. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that the text is brief but this is necessary in a book covering so many species; otherwise it would become too big and cumbersome for use in the field. It does include lots of pertinent information and the distribution maps are small but clear. Recommended.
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on 19 June 2008
After some three decades of work, Birds of Peru was finally published last year. This is the field guide that was first conceived by ornithologists John O'Neill, Ted Parker and Larry McQueen during the LSU Peru trips of the 1970s. Residing off reliable mail routes, I only just got my hands on a copy earlier this year. I had used photographs of the draft plates of this guide for fieldwork in Peru in the 1980s and on later trips had carried a pre-publication draft, and later a commercial copy of Clements' rather unsatisfactory A Field Guide Birds of Peru. In short, I had been eagerly awaiting the finished product for 20 years, so I was very excited to get it. Suffice to say, given the original authors, and several others that subsequently joined the team, this guide was well worth the wait.

The first innovation is that plates, maps and text for each species are found together on a single spread, eliminating the need to flip from one section of the book to another. With 1,800 species to choose from, this is a distinct help! Secondly, this guide has over 300 plates - 304 to be precise. That in itself is quite an achievement - compare 96 for Birds of Ecuador, 69 for Colombia or 67 for Venezuela. Sure enough, there are more illustrations per plate in those guides, but we are still dealing with a highly visual field guide. Boreal migrants are properly illustrated, reducing the need to carry an extra field guide to North American birds.

The plates are by a number of artists. For me, Larry McQueen's are breathtaking. Perhaps that's a question of personal taste. His large, chunky watercolours capture the essence of the bird in similar way to another favourite artist of mine, Lars Jonsson. McQueen covers some key Neotropical groups including Woodcreepers, Furnariids, Antbirds and Tyrannids, which gives these groups a stamp of authenticity. Whether this approach works in the field is something I will have to test, but I can say that they look beautiful and faithful on the page. Although the plates are never less than good, another major Neotropical family, Hummingbirds, is - to my eye - the weakest of all the plates.

The text is concise and oriented towards field identification, with minimal or no natural history data - information which adds crucial extra weight. An indication of abundance, geographical and altitudinal range and migratory status is given in the first sentence. Identification features follow. The voice descriptions are, to my ear, accurate and pleasing.

Lastly, the book is sturdily bound (I have the Princeton hardback, not the Helm paperback) so it won't immediately fall a part in the field. Compared to a north temperate field guide, Birds of Peru is heavy - but then it covers three times as many species. It might have been possible to lose a little weight by eliminating some of the white space on the plates, but this is a minor observation. At the end of the day, one of the world's major avifaunas now has an excellent field guide. Essential!

Chris Sharpe, 18 June 2008. ISBN: 0713686731
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on 4 December 2007
Work on this guide to the 1800 species of birds in Peru began in 1974 but the death of the main author and the size of the job have conspired to delay publication until 2007 - but the end result is well worth the wait.
This is an astounding field guide with some very good editorial decisions: the illustrations, maps and text are on the same open page, each page has a short overview of the species shown, illustrations of the very problematical sub-oscine families have been kept at a large size to aid recognition and the text is cut to the bare minimum with the emphasis on identification. These choices have managed to keep the book to a remarkably compact size considering the ground it has to cover.
The real highlight of the book, however, is the artwork. Bird illustrations are seldom this good or this 'right'. A number of artists have contributed but the hummingbirds of F P Bennett and the antbirds and tyrants of Larry McQueen are outstanding. I was fortunate to see some early drafts of Mr McQueen's plates in Peru in 1990 (when I thought the publication of the book was just a year or two away!) so I am relieved as well as happy that they are finally in print.
Visitors to Peru in the late 80's and 90's had to rely on the huge 'Birds of Colombia', and more recently the 'Birds of Ecuador' and 'Birds of the High Andes' have been preferred. 'Birds of Peru' has at last made the packing job easier, and will make field identification a treat too.
Finally, if like me you prefer a robust hardback the US edition is currently a steal at Amazon.com.
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on 22 November 2009
Excellent service. Book arrived almost by return post in good condition. Seeing the sheer number of birds, many of which look remarkably alike, is pretty daunting but the pictures and descriptions are as good as you could expect to get from a pocket book.
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on 18 January 2014
This guide book is 21cm (l) x 15 (w) x 4 (d) and weighs 1.2 kg
The index print at the back is too small to be of any use - a quick index would be nice!
Description print is slightly larger (2mm)
Maps have colour coding to indicate migration / resident status
Also has clear Endemic & status indicators at end of description

I've created a common species name 3 page "Easy Index" that can be downloaded from:
http://snk.to/f-cdc945lj
Should fit the guide perfectly and save you from reaching for your magnifier every time.
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on 17 February 2010
A really lovely book for the coffee-table but.......
despite the fact that this guide has some wonderful plates (along with a few less than wonderful ) I find it a real drag to use. The problem I have with it is that due to the sheer number of entries in the index -obvious when the species count is over 1700 as it is here- ,there are way too many entries to work with. This is caused by the inclusion of latin names amongst the common species names. Why ??? this is very ill conceived in my opinion and renders the use of this as a field guide pretty much a non-starter. If i'm in the field trying to i/d a particular bird i dont want to have to faff about working through 16 page's of index printed in tiny italics ffs! It may be a piffling point to many but I believe that a properly laid out index - Helm's Birds of East Africa by Fanshawe is a classic example of how to do it right - is vital for a field guide and this one sucks.
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on 29 December 2009
The book is very well put together. The text is very informative and the plates are excellent. The only drawback is that its on the heavy side but if you are serious about your birding then this is a book you cannot do without. From my research there is no other book that comes close.
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on 9 September 2010
Very very good book of birds. Plate beautifull and good informatión of species. The best Field Guies of birds Peru.
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on 31 October 2016
Used this in the Cordillera Blanca. Made me want to visit some other habitats soon!
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