Winging It - Volume 13, Number 7; July 2001

Winging It
Volume 13, Number 7 - July 2001

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, and Jordi Sargatal, eds. 1999.
Lynx Edicions/BirdLife International. 76 color plates by Richard Allen, Norman Arlott, Euctace Barnes, Hilary Burn, Clive Byers, John Cox, Mark Hulme, Angels Jutglar, Francesc Jutglar, lan Lewington, Toni Llobet, Dave Nurney, Douglas Pratt, Chris Rose, Lluis Sanz, Etel Vilaro, Jan Wilczur, lan Willis, and Tim Worfolk. Foreword by N.J. Collar. 406 color photographs, 758 distribution maps, 10 figures and tables; references, index. 760 pp. Cloth.

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and Jordi Sargatal, eds. 2001.
Lynx Edicions/BirdLife International. 44 color plates by Richard Allen, Norman Arlott, Hilary Burn, Francesc Jutglar, Douglas Pratt, Chris Rose, Lluis Sanz, Jan Wilczur, and Tim Worfolk. 385 color photographs, 270 distribution maps, 11 figures and tables, foreword by Luis F. Baptista and Donald F. Kroodsma, references, index. 589 pp. Cloth.

In the meantime, BirdLife International and Lynx Edicions of Barcelona have been moving right along with their monumental handbook of the world's birds. Volume 5 contains the owls, nightjars and relatives, and the swifts and hummingbirds. Volume 6 is even more delectable: mousebirds, trogons, and the Coraciiformes: kingfishers, todies, motmots, bee-eaters, rollers, ground- and cuckoo-rollers, hoopoes and woodhoopoes, and hornbills. How's that for a collection of exotic birds in one place?

Scott Swengel recently pointed out in Birding that this treatment of the world's owls is rivaled only by the owl volume from the Christopher Helm family series. If that is true of this relatively well-studied group of some 200 species, how much more true is it of the 328 hummingbirds for which this same volume provides the only complete, accessible, modern, illustrated treatment currently available? Almost worth hauling along on your next trip to Latin America!

Although the species accounts and color plates are of consistently high quality, the special features of these volumes are the family introductions and the spectacular photographs. A bonus is provided by the forewords: a cogent and useful essay by Nigel Collar on "Risk Indicators and Status Assessment in Birds" in Volume 5 and a lively and informative essay on "Avian Bioacoustics," drafted by Luis Baptista and completed after his death (and as a tribute to him) by Donald Kroodsma.

Another introductory essay to Volume 6 explains how it was originally intended to wrap up the non-passerines with jacamars through woodpeckers, now slated to form the contents of a new Volume 7. This would not be the first time that one of these major handbook projects has grown in size in the course of its lifetime. Nevertheless, the publishers are concerned enough about this expansion to ask readers and purchasers whether they want the series cut back to the original dimensions, presumably by reducing the space allotted to the passerines. That would be a pity, of course, but there are major economic issues involved, and it is only too easy for a freeloading reviewer to cast a vote for expansion; I hope the paying customers do likewise!

By Eric Salzman