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Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil: The Atlantic Forest of Southeast Brazil, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (WCS Birds of Brazil Field Guides) Paperback – 1 Aug 2016
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This guide follows the same format, has the same high-quality text and illustrations, and large range maps, as the first guide in the series, covering the Pantanal and Cerrado. There is also a nice introductory section reviewing the habitats of the region, and highlighting conservation concerns. It is a little heavier since it covers 200 more species (927 in all), but still a nice weight for field use.
Once the series is complete, these should be better than any of the existing field guides to the birds of Brazil, both in terms of portability and depth of treatment.
THE BAD: Nevertheless, there is some room for improvement.
–First, the guides lack any quick index to the birds; all field guides become much more useful with such indices, and every field guide needs one. Serious birders create their own where they must; but that is a time-consuming task that should be the responsibility of field guide authors.
–Second, the species accounts are admirable in containing a lot of information by field guide standards. However, unlike other guides, there are no bold headings within the species accounts, e.g. habitat, distribution, behavior, voice, etc., that help the reader quickly locate the information he or she is looking for. Given the length of some of the accounts, this would have definitely been helpful.
--Third, illustrations of passerine plumages is unhelpfully sparse in places. Almost no juvenile passerine plumages are illustrated, and only male or female plumages are illustrated in some cases, even when the plumages are quite distinct. In other cases, only the head of the bird is illustrated in a distinct plumage. These limitations are a result of trying to economize by borrowing all the passerine illustrations from Ridgely & Tudor’s "Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America". That book is similarly limited in terms of plumage illustrations. Hence, serious birders may want to supplement this guide with other books, e.g. the van Perlo guide, which at least has more male and female plumages illustrated.
–Finally, the guide mostly follows IOC nomenclature and taxonomy. SACC/AOU taxonomy is more widely followed among birders in the Western Hemisphere. Given the authors choice to use IOC, they should at least prominently display alternative SACC names. Instead, if these are mentioned at all, they are buried at the very end of the textual description.
ERRORS/OMISSIONS: Long-tufted Screech-Owl, which can be found in southeastern Brazil, e.g. at Intervales State Park, is not covered in the guide. Festive Coquette is listed as a Brazilian endemic even though it ranges throughout much of western South America, including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, etc.
The main issue with this book is that the authors chose to reuse illustrations from previous works without adding enough new ones. Some birds only have head shots, which looks really weird on these pages. Also, a number of species only show the adult male, when the females and in some cases the immatures look completely different. Examples: Black-faced Tanager only shows the head of the adult, with no immature (which look totally different). Green-chinned Euphonia only shows the male - no female is shown, despite the fact that the female that is far harder to identify. Four out of the six Drymophila antbirds do not show the female - disappointing considering this is one of the most characteristic genera of the region. Two of the cowbirds only show heads, which again just looks wrong.
A minor complaint is with the range maps. They tend to show the historical range of the bird, not the current range. Due to habitat loss and other factors, the present range of many species in the Atlantic Rainforest is much much smaller and more fragmented than the range maps suggest. While the text tends to clarify this somewhat, the maps can still lead an observer to believe that some species are present in a location when in reality they likely no longer occur. Example: Three-toed Jacamar is mapped almost throughout the region, when in reality it is currently only known from rather few, scattered locations and probably doesn't occur in the western part of its mapped range.