Ontario Birding News, Winter 2015

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Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Vol 1 - Non-Passerines), 2014. Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Carmen Pascual and Jordi Sargatal Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. E-mail: lynx@hbw.com. Hardcover 903 pages. $245.00 USD (ISBN 978-84-96553-94-1).

There are about 10,000 species of birds in the world and the number changes frequently as new species are described or recent splits, based on genetic research, redefine known complexes. So how does one figure out and define every species of bird in the world? Well, simply said, it is near impossible as it is a moving target, but HBW makes an amazing effort to this end. They have just released Volume 1 of a two volume series covering all the known species of birds in the world.

The editors define the goals of the book as follows: (1) each species is illustrated in full colour; (2) known ranges are mapped for both species and important subspecies; (3) Common Names are given in English, French, German and Spanish; (4) information about the taxonomic relationship for certain species complexes are described and (5) it is a living document.

The Introduction to the book is the only pre-checklist item included but it is worth a read as it explains why and how checklists of this nature are developed and offers considerable insight into speciation issues that face taxonomists in their struggle to better define the relationships between species.

To try to address the myriad issues surrounding this, they rely on quantitative analyses for species delimitation, using the scoring system known as the Tobias Criteria I to evaluate differences in morphology, vocalizations, ecology and geographical relationships. This is a complicated process but it does deal effectively with many of the challenges faced by other authors in defining species and it does lead to better consistency between checklist authors.

The body of the book is, as expected from Lynx, gorgeous. It is not simply a republication of the 16-volume series Handbook of the Birds of the World, but it adds updated information and maps.

A sample page tells the story. This plate (modified from the published version) describes several extinct species, such as the White Swamphen (lower right). Here they describe the bird, when it was discovered, and most importantly when and why it went extinct. Ninety-nine species are so described.

But this book is really about living birds, so in this volume, the authors deal with all the non-passerines in the world. Each is treated individually and includes common and scientific names, distribution, taxonomic information and a nice detailed map. Surprisingly, much can be learned about each species even though the text is Spartan and the images somewhat small. The high quality of the reproductions makes it understandable and clear. I have never seen a book like this –wait– there's never been one! This is the first time anyone has ever attempted this daunting task. For me – success! Just look at the plate below and I think you'll agree. 4,372 species in one book – amazing!

The authors realize that information changes regularly as science catches up with reality, so they have a plan for the future. As new information arises and is proven, periodic web-based updates will be offered and from time-to-time new hard copy editions of the book will be released. Tired of looking at traditional checklists? Then check this one out!

Geoff Carpentier

1 Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. 2010. Joseph A. Tobias, Nathalie Seddon, Claire N. Spottiswoode, John O. Pilgrim, Lincoln. C. Fishpool & Nigel J. Collar. International Journal of Avian Science.