Atualidades Ornitológicas - November-December 2003

Atualidades Ornitológicas
November-December 2003

When reviewing an exceptional book, accolades are easy to find. The problem a reviewer has is finding the proper words to describe a series of book of exceptional quality, that are detailed, accurate and all encompassing, and which exceed all expectations. The problem exacerbates when each volume is better than the previous one. It is with this quandary that I review volume 8 (broadbills to tapaculos) of Handbook of Birds of the World, edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and David Christie and published by Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International.

When I was growing up, my grandfather treasured an old Spanish dictionary published in Barcelona, Spain. That book, he felt, was superior to all others Spanish dictionaries because the Catalonians, he would say, were meticulous in what they do. These words, told to me many years ago, reverberated in my head as I perused through the most recent Handbook of Birds of the World. Few could do things so well. Lynx Edicions, based in Barcelona, Spain, has again exceeded all expectations.

The book not only covers birds of general interest-the pittas, for example-but provides also an all encompassing history of classification of birds. That section is modestly described as a brief history… but the brief history covers more than 23 pages! The history commences with Anaximander (circa 611-546 BC) and ends with a series of ornithologists whose works are topical and include such modern techniques as DNA-DNA hybridization.

The species covered in this book-pittas, woodpeckers, broadbills, overbirds, asities, gnateaters, antbirds and tapaculos-receive a detail study. No work is as complete. If you purchase only one group of books on birds, the Handbook should be it. In its pages and volumes, you will have all of the information you would ever want on a species, genus or group. As my wife, who entered the study while I was meticulously going through the book, said, the series could replace all the other books on the bookshelf and free a room for guests. The series, she argued, could be contained in one bookshelf, rather than the hundreds of books that fill dozens of bookshelves and which have, more or less, the same information.

The data provided in the Handbook is of tremendous value to the ornithologist, the field researcher and the aviculturist. Each can derive tremendous value from the information packed pages. It is no wonder that the Handbook has been praised and it is why I am at a loss for words to describe such an extolled tome.

I could write pages on why the book should find a place on your bookshelf, along with the previous volumes in the series. Instead, I recommend that you invest in the series and find out for yourself why the Handbook is the ultimate in bird book and the series the epitome of avian monographs.

Derian A.L. Silva Moraton