The Quarterly Review of Biology - Volume 75, September 2000

The Quarterly Review of Biology
Volume 75, September 2000

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds.

Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, and Jordi Sargatal. Barcelona (Spain): Lynx Edicions. $185.00. 759 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 84-87334-25-3. 1999.

The editors of this book have come out with the fifth volume in this series, and it is even more superb than its predecessors. There are 760 pages of accurate information, 76 color plates, 758 species maps, and 406 stunning photographs. Many superlatives come to mind when reading these handbooks, but with the fifth volume, the one word I keep thinking of is indispensable.

This is a definitive encyclopedia on the Orders Strigiformes, Caprimulgiformes, and Apodiformes, with extensive information on identification, range, habits, and conservation. The volume begins with a foreword on risk indicators and status assessment in birds which is of considerable importance since bird populations and their habitats are under assault throughout the globe. The rest of the volume is organized into three sections, one for each order. Within each section, there are extensive family descriptions, followed by individual species accounts. The family descriptions include in-depth information on systematics, morphology, habitat, habits, voice, feeding, breeding, movements, relationship with humans, status, and conservation. Each species account includes: common names in English and other languages; scientific name; a range map; taxonomy; subspecies and distributions; physical description; notes on habitat, feeding, breeding, movements, status and conservation; and a definitive bibliography. As a source of references alone, this volume is invaluable, containing approximately 8000 bibliographical entries. As a source of in-depth information on families and species, the volume is unparalleled. And perhaps most pleasing of all, these volumes combine encyclopedic information with the beauty and readability of coffee-table books. As one reads this volume, learning will be interspersed with view's of nightjars drinking water off the surface of a lake while in flight, great dusky swifts cavorting in front of Argentina's Falls of Iguazu, and a black-billed streamertail perched majestically on a twig in Jamaica. In short, along with being informed, readers will share in the beauty and wonder that watching birds in their natural habitat provides. And in so doing, we may all become better naturalists, and better stewards of the natural habitats upon which the birds, and their human admirers, depend.

JOHN P ROCHE, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana