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Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia Paperback – Illustrated, 1 Aug 2010
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When I first visited Colombia, A Guide to the Birds of Colombia (Hilty & Brown 1986; reviewed in Ibis 130: 136) had just been published. Not being able to afford a hardback edition, but worried about how its 800+ pages would survive as a paperback in the field, I followed local advice and got it hard-bound in Bogotá. Thereafter I carried my 1.45 kg treasure, wrapped in a plastic bag, in a special shoulder bag along forest trails. It was invaluable. The new guide, however, fully deserves its epithet `Field' . A full kilogram lighter than Hilty and Brown and less than 250 pages long, this remarkable book will fit in a pocket. Unlike the former, it illustrates in colour all of the species (nearly 1900) recorded in Colombia. This it achieves in 225 plates, which despite also fitting in distribution maps and brief notes for each species, appear far less crowded than in Hilty and Brown, especially for groups such as hummingbirds (Trochilidae), antbirds (Thamnophilidae) and tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae). There are coloured maps showing relief, political boundaries, vegetation types, rainfall, Endemic Bird Areas and Protected Areas, as well as lists of endemics, near-endemics , threatened species and species lists for Colombia s offshore islands in the Caribbean and Pacific. Unlike Hilty and Brown, there is no separate text section. To meet this book s rigorous requirements for economy, species notes are restricted to the few words that can be fitted onto the plates, highlighting information to help identification: habitat, status, diagnostic behaviour, perhaps one or two plumage features to separate from confusion species and, for some groups only, voice. It is a practical compromise which works extremely well to meet the stated objective of the book: to be easy and quick to use in the field, with the emphasis on identification. Its compact design is based on an extensive consultation with birders. There will, of course, be times when you need to refer back to the more extensive and comprehensive coverage of Hilty and Brown, but I recall that even with that work, which was my starting point in those days, I still needed to consult additional literature and museum skins from time to time. This book will be indispensable for anyone interested in Colombia and will be an essential companion in the field. There is also another important reason why I warmly recommend it. It is published by the pioneering Colombian NGO ProAves and all profits from sales will go towards their work in bird conservation and education. In just over 10 years since its formation, this group of energetic young fieldworkers and conservationists have made many exciting discoveries, helped to establish two national parks and currently own and manage a network of 18 bird reserves, as well as implementing integrated conservation and rural development projects and promoting bird tourism. The authors intend to publish a Spanish edition soon, which should have great appeal to both students and the general public in Colombia. As the country becomes safer to travel in, there is a growing interest in getting to know its extraordinary biodiversity through visits to reserves and national parks offering access and good infrastructure. --Martin Kelsey, IBIS The International Journal of Avian Science
Top customer reviews
The book relies heavily on the annotated pointer system as used by Svensson et al in the so called "Collins" for European birds.
Despite its compact size, the book has range maps. And they are quite legible with the exception of species that have a very restricted range or when the range is a very narrow band in the Andean foothills (e.g. Black-mandibled Toucan).
The dimensions given in the product details are correct except for the thickness of the book. It should read 1,4 cm. Still extremely slim, however.
Overall, I think this is a superb buy, and the authors and illustrators are to be congratulated. One does really get a fine overview of the avifauna of Colombia. Something that I have not as easily managed from the "Birds of Northern South America". Also, those two books would be way too bulky for taking them into the field.
I give the book five stars not because I think it is the best possible field guide, but because of its fine combination of info and size.
1. the format: it's small and light.
2. the lay-out: plates + maps = winner.
3. the updated taxonomy compared to Hilty.
The disadvantages of this guide are:
1. the drawings of flycatchers/foliage gleaners can be improved, a lot.
2. some plates bear mistakes. e.g. the Rufous Antpitta ssp. in the Santa Marta mtns. There are more (some tapaculos spring to mind).
3. several distribution maps are already outdated (e.g. Yellow-headed Brush-finch), but I admit it is not an easy task to have accurate maps for Colombia.
Overall the most handy book in the field, and, if the drawings of specific families would be improved in a second version, I would give it 4 stars.
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