North Durham Nature Newsletter, Volume 4 Number 2, April 2017 pp.12-14

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North Durham Nature Newsletter, Volume 4 Number 2, April 2017 pp.12-14

Checklist of the Birds of the World (Vol. 2 - Passerines). 2016. Edited by Josep del Hoyo and Nigel J. Collar. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. E-mail: Hardcover 1013 pages. 225.00€. ISBN – 978-84-96553-98-9.

by Geoff Carpentier

A few months ago, Lynx Edicions introduced Volume 1 of one of the most ambitious projects I have ever heard about to try to chronicle all the birds of the world into two volumes. It is not just a list of name after name of birds, but rather a detailed annotated list with a painting of each of the over 10,000 species in the world. Volume1 dealt with the Non-passerines (non-perching birds) and Volume 2 completes the task speaking to the Passerines. The endeavour becomes even more complex as the genetics and re-evaluation of species around the globe unfolds. Daily new species are being defined as genetic analyses are undertaken on many of the world’s species.

So what does the book actually cover? According to Lynx’s statistics, here’s what you’ll get - descriptions of 138 families, 1,358 genera, 6,592 species, 57 extinct species, 446 plates, 12,629 bird illustrations and 6,649 distribution maps. So to break it down, every passerine known at the time of printing was included – every one! Incredible! To even gather the information to write this book, 2 senior editors and 5 sub-editors, hundreds of volunteers, writers and authors and billions of bits of information were consulted.

The format is Spartan and simple but incredibly readable and informative. The first chapter is short but informed. An analysis of the “new taxonomy” is undertaken in response to the genetic work I mentioned above. How does the scientific community respond and what “splits and lumps” should be included? Make sure you read this 3 page article before you dive into the book!

The format of the rest of the book is eye-pleasing, clear and concise. Each two page foldout contains (on the left) the Order, Sub-order, Family and then information on each species covered on these two pages. Economy of scale is included as coloured headers separate species and a simple two letter code explains their vulnerability and status globally. English, French, German and Spanish names are offered for each species, as this is truly an international volume. Then a statement of distribution and an indication of its taxonomic status and a list of recognized subspecies are issued. This is very important for future generations who try to track the genealogy of these evolving species. Sounds a little scientific when I write about it, but it will be clear when you read it. It truly is a great analysis of the status of these over 6600 species covered in this volume. The opposing page depicts a full colour painting (or more) for every species, with similar species lumped together of course for easy comparison. And sharing the page is a great and readable map showing the world distribution for each species. Following is a sample page to give an idea of the detail.

The book goes on page after page for over 1000 pages treating you to this marvel of science. Even if you never will or never want to see all the birds in the world, you will find this book very helpful. I travel a lot so am perhaps more attuned to the value of the book. I use it for myriad purposes – to confirm what I believe I saw in the past, to highlight changes to taxonomy that might affect what I saw, to help with my writing and even to entertain myself. You won’t be disappointed if you decide to buy the book. I think every High School and library should own one to round out their reference section.

The book is timely and current and supersedes much of the knowledge we have about the birds of the world. Highly recommended. Now I have to go check out what the heck a Russet-backed Thrush is??? This is a new species to me and it occurs in Canada! Formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Swainson’s Thrush, many authorities now deem it to be a full species. Wonder if I’ve ever seen one? Yup – sure have – I love this book!