Top positive review
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A major breakthrough
on 31 October 2003
Bird watching in Africa as always been divided to 3 main regions; west, east and south. Consequently, our knowledge of birds in areas outside of these classic boundaries is much more basic. This book is the first time ever that a field guide is aiming for the whole region - from 20 deg N up to 200 nautical miles off the continent shores (including Socotra but not Madagascar, Seychelles and other Indian and Atlantic Ocean Islands). Thus, promoting a more ‘holistic’ view of the African Avifauna and showing species that are less likely to be found in the more traditional field guides.
Many of the plates have been taken from earlier publications (Birds of Southern Africa, Struik 2002 and Birds of Prey of Africa, Struik 1998); others were commissioned specially for this project. Generally, there is a feeling of browsing in one of the SA field guides but with a widen species list. The quality of the plates is always a matter of taste and as been said before, we the ‘birdwatchers’ are very hard to please! Like with other field guides, it is a very fragile balance between art and science and to catch a species ‘jizz’ is a very hard task indeed.
Most of the species have good illustrations that portray distinctive plumages, accurate and realistic and can easily meet the modern standards, some can almost ‘jump out’ from the pages - some Robins, Thrushes, Bulbuls and Canaries are just few examples for these. In some cases, diagnostic flight patterns are also displayed (Nightjars, Crakes, Ducks…). Still there are some that the illustrators did not manage catching the ‘jizz’ properly and missed out a good opportunity to improve earlier plates (some Swallows, Mousebirds, Larks, and Pipits can be examples for that).
With all that in mind, I still think that this book is an essential on each bird lover library. The ability to catch so many species in a compact layout and still stay relatively loyal for details is a major break through! Moreover, its continental scope is vital for the understanding of many conservation projects that are still to take action in the future in order to maintain this rich Avifauna region.