Winging it - June 2002

Winging It
June 2002

Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 7. Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, and Jordi Sargatal. 2002.
Lynx Edicions. 70 color plates, 317 photographs, 408 distribution maps. 613 pp. Cloth. Available to ABA members for $145.00 from Lynx Edicions, Montseny 8, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain; e-mail; web

All the non-passerines in seven volumes!

Part I of the Handbook of the Birds of the World, now planned for sixteen volumes instead of the original twelve, draws to a close with the most gorgeous volume to date. The astounding array of jacamars, puffbirds, barbets, toucans, honeyguides, and woodpeckers surpasses even the trogons, kingfishers, bee-eaters, and rollers of volume 6. Particularly revealing is the widespread and bizarre variation in the barbets and woodpeckers, which are found across the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia. No inventor of imaginary animals ever came up with anything as bizarre as the Bearded Barbet or so-called ground barbets of Africa, or the Toucan Barbet of South America. Or the crested woodpeckers of Asia and the Americas, which of course include two of the great tragic players of recent times, the Imperial and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Fittingly, the introductory essay in this volume, by Errol Fuller, is on the subject of extinct birds.

The taxonomy used is perhaps somewhat less conservative than in recent volumes in the series, as the new arrangement of the toucans as a branch of the distinctive American barbets is acknowledged. Also, the compilers do not shy away from some of the notable splits that have come down the pike in recent years, and there is information on superspecies clusters and on a large number of subspecies (i.e., incipient species) that make up some of the more elaborate complexes of closely related birds.

The format is similar to that of the other volumes of the series. A long and detailed introduction to each group, in this case the jacamars, puffbirds, barbets, toucans, honeyguides, and woodpeckers, is accompanied by a superb series of color photographs (in the Ivory-bill's case, old black-and-white photos that have been expertly, if questionably, colorized!). These essays and the accompanying photographs are extremely generous in their depiction of these birds. By contrast, the species accounts are highly condensed, although accompanied by range maps, names in several languages, and a full set of plates showing, as appropriate, both sexes, an excellent selection of subspecies, and occasionally other forms or variants. As usual, there is a major bibliography and an index of Latin and English names. Also included is a laminated pictorial index of the family groups that were covered in the first seven volumes of the series.

Readers of this publication can order the volume at the pre-publication price of $145 through July by contacting the publisher, directly (see above) and mentioning that they are members of ABA.

Now, on to the passerines!

by Eric Salzman