Scottish Bird News - Nº91, March 2009

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Scottish Bird News
Nº 91; March 2009

Handbook of the Birds of the World
Volume 13: Penduline Tits to Shrikes.
Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott & David Christie, 2008.
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 978-84-96553-45-3. 880 pages £150.00.

Having previously purchased the first twelve volumes in this wonderful series, I was full of expectation when volume 13 arrived. I was net disappointed. In my opinion, HBW, as it is affectionately known, is the greatest birdbook ever written. With only three more volumes remaining it will be a magnificent collection, which will describe and illustrate every species of bird. If I was permitted to own only one book or set of books this would be it. Reviewers have heaped praise en each of the twelve volumes previously published and I am sure volume 13 will be no exception.

This volume contains accounts for the 595 species –Penduline Tits, Long-tailed
Tits, Nuthatches, Wallcreeper, Treecreepers, Rhabdornis, Sunbirds, Berrypeckers and Longbills, Painted Berrypeckers, Flowerpeckers, Pardalotes, White-eyes, Sugarbirds, Honeyeaters, Orioles and Shrikes.

For each family there is a very readable introduction, which, for instance in the case of the Shrikes runs to 42 pages. All of the family introductions are lavishly illustrated with wonderful photographs. There are 48 photographs of shrikes. The individual species accounts are authoritatively written, covering such aspects as taxonomy, distribution, description, breeding, status and much more, including a clear and accurate range map. All species are fully illustrated by well-known artists, who, in this volume, include Norman Arlott, Ian Lewington and Hilary Burn. As an example, the four colour plates for the 31 species of shrike contain 78 images painted by Tim Worfolk.

It is customary for each volume to include a foreword covering an important aspect of ornithology, written by a guest author. In volume 13, it is ‘Bird Migration’ - a thoroughly enthralling 33-page essay by Ian Newton.

When the first volume appeared in 1992, there were many sceptics who believed the series would never be completed. Sixteen years and twelve volumes later, this vast undertaking is within sight of the end. The last three volumes are likely to appear at intervals little more than twelve months apart. As a reference work it is Unsurpassable. As a book to simply browse through it is unbeatable. If you are at all interested in world birding and are not already collecting this set you certainly should be. Without delay see your bank manager to arrange the necessary finance the purchase the first thirteen volumes at the special price of ‘only’ £1 ,547 (full price when volumes bought individually £1,950), or get details of a monthly instalment plan from the HBW website www.hbw.com.

Ron Forrester