South Dakota Bird Notes - September 2002

South Dakota Bird Notes
September 2002

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD. VoL 7. Jacamars to Woodpeckers. 2002. J. del Hoyo, A. Elliot, and J. Sargatal, Eds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. 613 pp. $185.00 (www.hbw.com.)

With this volume, The Handbook of the Birds of the World, the outstanding series of books devoted to the world's avifuana, reaches a seminal point -the conclusion of the nonpasserines. Included in Volume 7 are jacamars and puffbirds (both of the New World tropics), barbets (worldwide tropics), toucans (New World tropics), honeyguides (Old World tropics), and woodpeckers. Included with this volume is a laminated index to the families covered in the first seven books of this series.

This volume continues with the high standards of excellence and format familiar to readers of the previous books in this series. The book begins with a fascinating forward and continues with coverage of the bird families. Two sections cover each family. First there is a broad essay, covering systematics, morphology, habitat, behavior, economic aspects, conservation, and a general bibliography. Interspersed in this section are glorious color photographs, showing plumages and even behaviors of the birds. Photographs of woodpeckers drumming and of woodpeckers inserting their tongues into cross-sections of logs are especially fascinating. Other particularly noteworthy photographs include a series of digitally colorized Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

Following each family essay are accounts of each species in the family, including range maps and sections on taxonomy, distribution, habitat, food, breeding, migration, conservation and literature references. In these accounts, color paintings of all species and many subspecies are presented (for example, seven races of Hairy Woodpeckers are illustrated).

The combined forwards to these seven volumes could constitute an ornithology course. The forward to Volume 7 discusses extinct birds. The world's birds that have disappeared within historical times are covered, including the reasons contributing to their demise, and each species is illustrated in color. Clearly the majority of these seem to have been island rails or Hawaiian endemics, and the culprits appear to have often been introduced cats and rats. Some extinct birds are known from single specimens collected in the 1700s. The forward ends with a discussion of hypothetical species and mystery birds (including the Townsend's Bunting, described by Audubon from a single specimen, but never seen again).

The price for each of these volumes may initially seem steep. The reader, however, should remember that one gets a lot for the money -color photographs and illustrations and a worldwide coverage of the birds of the world. In many cases this coverage (and certainly the artwork) is superior to that found in other books covering single bird families. On top of that, the forwards to each volume, gives the reader a course in ornithology. The family essays are quite readable, the only drawback, perhaps, is balancing such a large book while you read.

Dan Tallman
Northern State University,
Aberdeen SD 57401