World Birdwatch (BirdLife International) - September 1998

World Birdwatch (BirdLife International)
September 1998

Handbook of the Birds of the World, Sandgrouse to Cuckoos, Vol.4
ed. J del Hoyo, A Elliott and J Sargatal,

Lynx Editions, Barcelona, 1997. 679 pp, £110.00(hb). ISBN 84 87334 22 9

All the superlatives have already been used - yet again the editors have overseen the production of another wonderful volume in the Handbook of the Birds of the World series. The foreword on species concepts and species limits in Ornithology by Jürgen Haffer is a concise summary of this topical issue. The introductory sections to the families are comprehensive and presented in a flowing essay style. The species accounts are crammed full of information and appear thoroughly researched.

In addition to the English and scientific names, each species is given a name in French, German and Spanish. Unfortunately, the Spanish names given are often just translations of the English ones and bear little resemblance to those used in reality. For example, the Brotogeris Parakeets are given the Spanish generic name Catita, yet almost throughout their range in South America they are known as Perico.

The descriptive voice section, which first appeared for Rallidae and Gruidae in volume 3, reappears for Cuckoos here. It is a shame one is not also included for the Columbidae. The plates remain of a generally high standard, particularly those by Burn, Lewington, Rose and Willis who are among 18 artists to have contributed to this volume. However, the resulting differences in styles can be a little disconcerting when looking between plates. The superb quality of the photographs that illustrate the family texts make this book a pleasure to browse through, whilst the captions are both fascinating and informative. No one seriously interested in birds should be without a set.

Rob Williams