Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club - 1998 118(4)

Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club
1998 118(4)

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos.
Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. (eds) 1991
Pp. 679, 70 colour plates, c. 250 colour photographs, c. 850 distribution maps, c. 8000 bibliographical references.
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84- 87334-22-9. £ 110. 310x 240mm.

This volume is the fourth in the beautifully illustrated HBW series (now one third complete). It begins with a lengthy Foreword by Jürgen Haffer, discussing species concepts and species limits in ornithology, dealt with under the general headings of typological species concept, biological species concept and evolutionary and phylogenetic species concepts. Examples are given illustrating clearly the differences in interpretion under the different species concepts, followed by a brief review of the increase in number of bird species described during the past 250 years.

This Volume covers the four orders Pterocliformes, Columbiformes, Psittaciformes and Cuculiformes. The cockatoos are separated in a family of their own (Cacatuidae), rather than being lumped with the parrots (Psittacidae), so that six families are included: Sandgrouse, Pigeons and Doves, Cockatoos, Parrots, Turacos, Cuckoos. The resulting 837 species described are more than in any of the other non passerine volumes. Awkward nomenclatural problems are described with particular reference to the tiny Fig- parrots.

The considerably increased number of figures included in the 70 colour plates of the present volume (compared to earlier volumes) has resulted in a significant increase in the number of contributing artists, with their associated differing styles. The editors hope, however, that the number of artists will stabilise for future volumes but are conscious of the desire to ensure that HBW continues to appear on schedule.

In the first three volumes of the series the distribution maps (in conjunction with the text) are very useful and indicative but occasionally somewhat difficult to interpret, even for those regions with which I am familiar. The maps in Vol. 4 follow the same criteria, but the editors admit that the maps continue to present problems, available distribution data being frequently rather sparse and occasionally contradictory. Another difficulty is the adequate depiction of migration tendency, the solution adopted generally being to map the entire distribution area as green (signifying both breeding and non-breeding areas), with explanations being given in the Movements section of the text. Altitudinal movement is essentially impossible to indicate because of the small scale. In a few cases, areas are indicated for introduced species.

As in previous volumes, the accepted French, German and Spanish names of species continue to be given, recommended Spanish names continuing to be published periodically elsewhere. The editors acknowledge the many museums and libraries which continue to contribute greatly to the healthy progress of the project. The very extensive bibliography contains many up-to-date references, just to quote one example- Tauraco ruspoli/ Ruspoli´s Turaco includes comments in the Status and Conservation section from Borghesio 1997 (Bull. Brit. Orn. Cl. 117(1): 11-16) as well as being categorised as Endangered: Cites II.

Pre-publication literature associated with Vol. 4 indicates that by means of a series of supplements (the first of which is in preparation) the up-to-date information on all species presented so far will be renewed indefinitely, including colour plates of new species described since publication of the corresponding volume. I find this extremely encouraging, as has been the whole project to date and the editors (as well as BirdLife International) are to be warmly congratulated on the timely progress of this magnificent series.

Lynx Edicions titles may be purchased from specialised bookshops or directly from the publishers: Lynx Edicions, Passeig de Gràcia 12, 08007 Barcelona, Spain. Tel: +34 93 301 07 77; Fax: +34 93 302 14 75; E-mail: lynx@hbw,com; INTERNET: http://www.hbw.com

S.J. Farnsworth