Winging it - May 2004

Winging It
May 2004

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8, Broadbills to Tapaculos Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, and David Christie, eds. 2003.

Lynx Edicions, Barcelona: 81 plates by eight artists; color photographs and range maps throughout; introductory matter; species accounts; appendices, bibliography, and indices. 845 pp. Cloth; $195 + $4 packing and shipping. Available from Lynx Edicions, Montseny, 808193 Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain; www.hbw.com.

The mystery that surrounds antbirds and their kin has only been deepened by how much we didn't (and still don't) know about the denizens of the dark and mysterious tropical American forests. Even a simple question like "how many of them are there?" has no sure answer; new ones are being discovered or recognized all the time. Ridgely and Tudor did major pioneering work in Volume 2 of their Birds of South America, but a lot has happened in the last decade. Now HBW (Handbook of the Birds of the World) has finally made it to the passerines with the first installment of those ever-wonderful suboscines. This includes not only 300 pages of antbirds (typical and ground) but also the spectacular Old-world broadbills and pittas, the strange Madagascarene asities, and the full comple­ ment ofNeotropical ovenbirds, woodcreepers, gnateaters, and tapaculos. With a few modifications, this volume follows the pattern of previous ones, but on a considerably larger scale. The explosive growth of knowledge about these secretive and heretofore little-known birds has resulted in a lot of new information, much of it previously unpublished or difficult of access. The color plates illustrate a profusion of forms of all the families or groups listed above and are accompanied by . HBW's typically dense, laconic, highly informative species accounts and range maps. Each group gets an introductory essay illustrated by the remarkable color photographs that have become a hallmark of this series. I have spent a certain amount of time looking for ground antbirds (as well as considerably shorter periods actually looking some of them). How did HBW ever get these photos? Even the common species are not easy, and this collection includes such rarities as the Moustached, Giant, Rufous-crowned, Jocotoco, and Cundimarca Antpittas, all but the last jaunting and strutting about in their natural habitat on the forest floor. Wow!

Eric Salzman