Africa – Birds & Birding - October/November 1999

Africa – Birds & Birding
October/November 1999

Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos
Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and Jordi Sargatal
Published by Lynx Edicions, Passeig de Gràcia 12, 08007 Barcelona, Spain.
Fax (+34-93) 302 1475; e-mail lynx@hbw.com, Website www.hbw.com
Hardcover, dustjacket; 679 pages; 145 Euros (including postage and packaging); ISBN 84-87334-22-9

Volume 4 in this series of comprehensive, well-received and eminently readable handbooks follows the previous three volumes in format, which should by now be familiar to most readers of bird books. I doubt if anyone who knows the first three volumes will need any persuading to buy Volume 4, or to budget for buying each new volume as it appears. The series is a great success, and all the superlatives have already been applied to it in the many reviews, which have appeared in both serious and popular ornithological publications. There is little else to add, except to congratulate the editors on keeping commendably to schedule with the issue of each volume, and on maintaining the very high standard which they have set themselves. As a contributor to the series, I can attest to the rigorous application of editorial standards, the hard work and the commitment to excellence which result in the contents of each volume being of a uniform quality – no mean achievement in a multiauthor work such as this.

Volume 4 covers four bird orders and 837 species, including one of the most popular avian groups, the Psittaciformes (cockatoos and parrots), as well as the Cuculiformes (turacos and cuckoos), the large order Columbiformes (pigeons and doves), and the Pterocliformes (sandgrouse). The classification follows the generally accepted separation of the sandgrouse from the pigeons and doves, but does not accept Sibley and Monroe’s inclusion of them in the order Charadriiformes. It should also be noted that the Hoatzin Opisthocomus, which in recent years has been linked to the Cuculiformes, is given its own monotypic order in Volume 3.

The family accounts are, as usual, one of the best features on the book. They are detailed and interesting, and include a remarkable collection of photographs of a consistently very high standard (it is almost worth buying the book for the photographs alone). The colour plates are also of a generally excellent standard, and the editors have assembled an impressive list of 18 highly talented bird artists for this volume. The 48-page bibliography is comprehensive and up-to-date, including references up to the year of the book’s publication. In short, there is nothing significant to criticize in Volume 4, and I eagerly await the appearance of Volume 5.

Barry Taylor