Avicultural Magazine - Vol. 108(1): 41-42 - April 2002

Avicultural Magazine
Vol. 108(1): 41-42 - April 2002

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD

If anything, number six of this monumental series is more stunning than its predecessors. Of course it helps to have a volume devoted almost entirely to some of the world's most colourful and spectacular birds - kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, trogons and hornbills among them. By contrast with these dandies, the mousebirds look positively drab.

The sheer volume of high quality material available for this latest volume presented the publishers with a considerable dilemma and they have devoted some two pages to explain how they resolved the problem. The material in question has been split into two parts - Volume 6 (Mousebirds to Hornbills) will be followed in April by Volume 7 (Jacamars to Woodpeckers), with passerines starting at what will be Volume 8. As a result of these changes we are not quite at the half-way stage of what was planned originally as a 12 volume work, but has recently been increased to 16. The publishers looked at various options and eventually decided to poll readers in order to ascertain their views: (a) that future volumes should continue to be as comprehensively illustrated as possible or (b) to cut costs where necessary by including fewer photographs and illustrating fewer subspecies on the colour plates, as well as imposing strict word limits on authors. Ninety-three percent of readers polled want future volumes to continue to be as comprehensive and fully illustrated as possible, therefore nine volumes will be devoted to passerines.

In Volume 6 the HBW team has succeeded in carrying out a trial on a long-term aim of encouraging good photographers to go out in search of photos of species for which it has none of publishable quality. "On this occasion. Brian Coates very kindly agreed, at very short notice and with very modest funding, to travel to Sulawesi in search of photos for some elusive species. We are delighted to report that the results of this experiment include a fine series of shots, of which we are very happy to be publishing a selection in this and forthcoming volumes", said a spokesman. Examples of Brian's work can be found among the kingfishers, rollers and hornbills.

Layout remains the same of course, with lengthy family introductions providing much general information on Systematics, Morphological Aspects, Habitat, General Habits, Voice, Food and Feeding, Breeding, Movements, Relationship with Man, Status and Conservation, Species accounts, which are accurate and up to date, are provided under the headings. Taxonomy, Subspecies and Distribution, Descriptive Notes, Habitat, Food and Feeding. Breeding, Movements, Status and Conservation, plus a short bibliography appropriate to individual species. The 45 colour plates - the work of Richard Allen, Francesc Jutglar, Lluis Sanz, Norman Arlott, Douglas Pratt, Jan Wilczur, Hilary Burn, Chris Rose and Tim Worfolk maintain the high standards achieved in previous volumes. As usual, distinctive subspecies are also illustrated.

The photographs in Volume 6 provide irrefutable evidence of the importance of maintaining the status quo. They are of outstanding quality and while I have not cheeked every caption I believe the emphasis is solidly on the work of field rather than studio photographers. My personal favourites (not in any particular order) are: Resplendent Quetzal at nest (p. 95); Southern Ground Hornbills feeding on zebra (p. 469); Von der Decken's Hornbillls with Dwarf Mongoose and Superb Starling (p. 451); Green Woodhoopoes at nest (p. 419); Long-tailed Ground-Roller (p. 384) and Red-faced Mousbird drinking (p. 69). Just about every facet of behaviour is captured in more than 380 photographs. That is what sets apart the photographs in all volumes, the fact that subjects are invariably engaged in activity of one kind or another - feeding, preening, displaying and rearing young.

As usual this is as good as you are likely to get. It is now simply a question of looking forward to further superlative volumes, for everyone who has made the acquaintance of those so far published will surely want to complete the set!

Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 6, Mousebirds to Homhills, is priced £ 110. Further information, samples and ordering are available online at: www.hbw.com. Lynx Edicions have a new address: Montseny. 8. E-08193 Bellaterra. Barcelona. Spain. Tel: +34 93 594 77 10/ Fax:+34 93 592 09 69/E-mail: lynx@hbw.com

By Frank Woolham