Pacific Conservation Biology, 2017, 23, pp.306–311

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HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World: Volume 2 Passerines

Del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. J., Christie, D. A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L. D. C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G. M. 2016

Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

ISBN 978-84-96553-98-9

Pp. 1013, 4.6 kg, 31 x 24 cm, Hardback

Price Euro €225.00 (~$312 AUD) with free shipping worldwide




The accounts in this volume are based on the accounts from the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW). This illustrated edition was written by many including the authors of the aforementioned volumes. It was edited by Josep del Hoyo the Senior Editor of HBW (del Hoyo et al. 1992–2013) and Nigel J. Collar a Leventis Fellow in Conservation Biology, BirdLife International. The other authors were: David A. Christie Assistant Editor, British Birds (1973–2002) and Editor, Handbook of the Birds of the World (2003–2013); Andrew Elliott, Editor, Handbook of the Birds of the World (1992–2013); Lincoln D. C. Fishpool, Global Science Co-ordinator (IBAs); Peter Boesman, Bird vocalization expert and recorder, and Editor, HBW Alive; and Guy M. Kirwan, Research Associate, Field Museum of Natural History and Editor, HBW Alive. Lynx Edicions published this volume in association with BirdLife International. Essentially the people and organisations best qualified to complete such a vast and complex project. This volume (passerines) is the second of two volumes that aims to put all the world’s birds into one checklist. (See review of non-passerines Fulton 2015.)

Like the first volume this is structured in checklist fashion: in order from the beginning: a taxonomic list of families and sub-families with page numbers linking to their occurrence in the checklist; followed by a list of contributing authors by family; then a purposeful and useful introduction that finally precedes the checklist with the species accounts. The checklist is ended by songbirds extinct since 1500 in the same format as the checklist. An extensive bibliography is given with 2470 references and finally the index. At 888 pages, the checklist (species accounts) dominates this tome. When I say tome I do not say it lightly with this volume weighing 4.6 kg, which is 320 g more than volume 1.

The checklist is set-out the same way as volume 1 with illustrations and distribution maps on the right page and the accompanying text on the left as in field guides and handbooks. The text is concise and gives: English and scientific names, a coloured box with the ICUN threat ranking, the corresponding HBW volume and page number, French, German and Spanish names, basic taxonomic notes (includes authority), subspecies and distribution. As with volume 1 the illustrations are clear and well detailed and in full colour. The maps are small, postage-stamp sized, yet clear and colour-coded to address variations such as migrations and breeding ranges. The check list is vast comprising: 1 order, 138 families, 1,358 genera, 6,592 extant species and 57 extinct species. Illustrations include 446 plates (pages), 12,629 bird illustrations and 6,649 distribution maps. The suite of extinct species given at the end are also included through the checklist in their appropriate phylogenetic positions, but without repeating the illustrations and data.

The authors have again supplied a useful yet shorter introduction. They again use an integrative approach seeking to include all varieties of evidence to revise taxa and again use the Tobias approach to achieve this goal (Tobias et al. 2010; del Hoyo and Collar 2014, p 30-41). I give a quick explanation of the Tobias approach in my review of volume 1 (Fulton 2015). Such evidence includes geographic range, plumage, internal morphology, ecological characters, behavioural traits, genetic information and vocalisations—a more detailed explanation on how these were used is provided in the introduction.

The audience for this book is obviously broad from bird enthusiasts to libraries to research institutions, particularly those engaged in systematics and taxonomy. But Professor Nigel Collar, one of this tome’s authors, argues it is a “vital tool for conservationists” (Collar 2016). He argues principally because it is the only checklist with critical independence for deciding what constitutes a species. He is referring to the use by one team of the one method (the Tobias criteria) to delimit species. This is opposed to other taxonomists lumping species together based on published findings of many different lines of evidence.

As with the first volume the most obvious strength of this tome lies in having the world’s passerines (songbirds), up to date and illustrated in colour with maps and taxonomic notes at your fingertips in a single volume. And they are conveniently presented on the same double-page spread. The illustrations provide the recognisable units that many readers will identify with quickly when searching for taxa. The continued use of the Tobias criteria for delimiting species will be a strength for some and a weakness for others. I suspect that a majority may see it as a strength.

The text aids ornithology by consolidating a great deal of information in one place and then concisely putting that core data conveniently at your finger-tips. Outside the book, but within the scope of the project the latest data can be investigated though the website, which is being constantly updated (see HBW Alive (del Hoyo et al. 2017)). It is an important research tool and a useful addition to any biological or ornithological library. Ecologists need to know exactly what taxa they are working with to be able to report their findings. Systematists and taxonomists will draw on it to either support or contrast it to their work.

The organisation of the text (reported above) advances this volume through colour coding and layout with text and illustrations on facing pages. The taxa are number making it simple and quick to move from illustration to text or vice versa. Further clear and consistent marking and subheadings within each species’ text streamlines the speed with which you can find exactly what you’re looking for. The text is appropriately reference to the type publications in Harvard style and by use of superscript numbers for further details found in the taxonomic and descriptive notes. Such a high standard of referencing advances the book to the highest level for research. The bibliography in this text contains 2,126 citations.

There is little in the way of supplementary material with the extinct species sections and the 12,629 bird illustrations and 6,649 maps being its core and of a high standard. This volume is presented in the same way and is the same size as volume 1; it is about quarto-sized, the same size as the original HBW volumes. The paper used in the book was “sourced from managed sustainable forests”.

This tome’s size and content clearly identify it as a serious reference for professionals and libraries, although no doubt there will be many amateur birders who will want it. I would recommend this book to reference libraries especially biological libraries, museum libraries and those people that need a checklist of the world’s birds for their work.



Collar, N. 2016. The Ultimate List. Birdlife 38(4): 38-40.

del Hoyo, J. and Collar, N. J. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World: Volume 1 Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2017). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 1-04-2017).

Fulton, G. R. 2015. Book Review: BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World: Volume 1 Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Pacific Conservation Biology 21: 98.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L D. C., and Collar, N. J., 2010. Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724-746.


[1] Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Qld 4072, Australia.

2 School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia.