Ibis - 1997


Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (eds). 1996.
Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks.

Pp. 824, 60 colour plates, 384 colour photographs and 577 distribution maps. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. £ 105.00, $175.00. ISBN 84-87334-20-2.

This is the third volume in an outstanding series aiming to provide species level accounts for all the birds of the world, and it is superb. Volume 3 covers 577 species from 30 families, beginning with Opisthocomidae (Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoazin is classified in its own monotypic order for the purposes of this book) and ending with Alcidae. The format follows that established in the first two volumes (see Ibis 135: 337-338). The reader is first introduced to each family, and then detailed accounts of every species in that family follow. It is a very successful formula. Every aspect has been well thought through so the book is both practically set out as well as being visually pleasing. I was particularly impressed with the text that accompanied each of the stunning photographs, so often a weak point in less carefully assembled works. I also liked the short bibliography at the end of every species account for its practical application for those seeking to read further. There are more than 10,000 references used. Relevant recent literature is well represented, with several papers cited that were published in 1995.

My criticisms are minor. The index is simply an alphabetical species list. This said, and because of the structure of the book, it is difficult to conceive a practical way of adding a broader range of information to it. The meaning of the colour coding for the range maps is not detailed in this volume (as it was in the first) but is intuitively clear enough. The hyphenated splitting of words between two lines is habitual throughout this volume and possibly detracts slightly from the readability and perhaps should have been avoided. Whereas the introductions to each family are printed with a 10 pt. font, the species accounts are printed in 8 pt. font. This is a rather tiny font size in a rather large volume made more noticeable by the constant switches between the two throughout.

If given enough time, you could find all the information presented in this book scattered throughout the ever expanding plethora of ornithological literature. However, it must benefit our field immeasurably to have so much of it gathered together and presented so professionally in one reference series.

Put simply, the fine work is a painstakingly researched, thoughtfully set out, carefully written and beautifully illustrated tribute to all those involved in its production. The authors are attempting a great deal with this project. It is a measure of the level of accomplishment achieved to say that they have succeeded in all facets once again with this praiseworthy addition to the series.

Ian F.Hill