The Phoenix - December 1997

The Phoenix
December 1997

Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks (1997).
del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott and J. Sargatal, eds. 1992.

Barcelona: ICBP/Lynx Edicions. 660 pp. Expected in late 1992.

If books were judged by weight this one 4.1 kg (9 lb) would certainly come out on top. However it also succeeds when judged by various more traditional bird book standards. It is a good read, a competent reference, contains good quality photographs to a high standard of reproduction and has expertly prepared colour illustrations.

This is the 3rd volume of the series which will probably run to nine or ten volumes eventually, covering all the birds of the world. This volume covers the single species opisthocomiformes (hoatzin), the gruiformes including cranes, rails and bustards, and the charadriiformes, that is waders, gulls and terns. The series has settled into a consistent format whereby birds are dealt with at two levels, at the family level and at the species level. At the family level treatment, for example of the sternidae (terns), covers the general aspects of species including systematics, ornithological aspects, habitat, general habits, voice, food and feeding, breeding, movements, relationships with man, and status and conservation. A box at the beginning of the family provides outline world range map for the family , size range, general habitat, the number of genera, species and taxa (total sub-species recognised), for terns this is 10,44 and 123 respectively. There is also a conservation line highlighting the number of species threatened or extinct since 1600. Five species of terns are threatened but none have recently become extinct. The family sections are illustrated with some stunning photographs of birds engaged in typical activities for the genus such as feeding methods, flocking, nesting, mating etc. Each photo has a very full descriptive caption which compels even the most hurried of browsers to linger. The species accounts provide bird names in French, German and Spanish and deal with each species against the sub-headings of taxonomy, sub-species and distribution, descriptive notes, habitat, food and feeding, breeding, movements and status and conservation. An abbreviated bibliography appears at the end of each species account and cross-refers to the nearby colour artwork illustrating each species. Species accounts also have a world range map showing breeding and non-breeding range. These maps change format according to size of range and are quite ample. The species account generally answers most questions the average reader/researcher will need however they are not as lengthy as those in BWP. Rightly or wrongly everyone tends to judge bird books on the quality of the artwork and HBW comes out very well in this respect. Each species is illustrated at least once and sometimes several illustrations appear to show sex/race variations. Volume 3 is illustrated by a top class international team. HBW presents information on every species in the world and an illustration of each species. The text accounts are very readable and in a straightforward unstuffy style which is quite unlike many of the more traditional handbooks that have recently appeared or are in production at present. This volume has a high degree of Arabian relevance, of the 547 species dealt with a quick count suggests 124 have occurred in Arabia and of these about 35 have bred. It is expensive but so are so many good bird books. Recommended.

Hardback, 824 pages (240 x 310 mm) includes 60 colour plates, 384 photographs and 577 maps. Price £ 105, published by Lynx Edicions, Passeig de Gracia 12, Barcelona, Spain. ISBN 84-87334-20-2.