Virtual Tour



Main sections of the Handbook of the Birds of the World

Summary Box

The basic unit in HBW is the family, with a complete chapter dedicated to each. All chapters start off with a summary box, which includes the most elementary details of the family.

Reviewers have said:

A 'summary box' precedes each family account, reviewing classification, basic description, major habitats, the status of endangerment, and its distribution including a map. The range of body sizes within each family is illustrated by pictograms relating the largest and the smallest representative to the size of a human.
Ethology, GERMANY


Family Texts

The general text of the family is up to date and rigorously scientific but is at the same time readable and easily comprehensible. Each chapter is subdivided into the following sections: Systematics; Morphological Aspects; Habitat; General Habits; Voice; Food and Feeding; Breeding; Movements; Relationship with Man; Status and Conservation; and General Bibliography. You can see a sample family text by going to the bottom of this page.
Reviewers have said:

In contrast to most regional works, the family texts are lengthy, and although written in a very readable style, they delve into many fields of scientific investigation, including the latest discoveries regarding biology, ecology and relationships of the family in question. These texts are by far the most comprehensive at the family level ever published, with the exception of a few monographs.
Indiana Audubon Quarterly , USA
Covering all the birds of the world for the very first time, the widespread teams of expert authors have produced texts of the highest quality.
Birding World, UK
What is outstanding is the level of research that has gone into the making of this book and the accuracy of the text which has been rigorously compiled and edited.
Honeyguide, ZIMBABWE
Despite its size and scope, the Handbook is written in clear, uncomplicated English and is ideal for dipping into for a relaxing read as well as for looking up some technical point of reference.
Wildfowl & Wetlands, UK
A crucial point is formed by the happily extensive and many-sided comprehensive descriptions of the families, which altogether provide a very good overview of avian biology.
Journal für Ornithologie, GERMANY

The text is throughout, lucid, informative, up to date, and achieves its avowed aim of serving as a benchmark for status and conservation.
BBC Wildlife, UK


Taxonomic Diagrams

Internal subdivisions of the families are illustrated by means of clear diagrams.

Reviewers have said:

HBW is based on a strong comparative and phylogenetic approach, including helpful hierarchical diagrams of the subfamilial taxonomic structure.
The Condor, USA



Each volume contains over 400 photographs, selected from the world's best bird photographers and agencies. They are of two main types, with distinct functions. On the one hand are photographs of a large number of rare species, some of which have never before had their photographs published.

In the case of the commoner species, on the other hand, simple portraits, no matter how beautiful, would not really add to the plates, so the tendency is instead to concentrate on illustrating, with images from real life, the most notable aspects of the birds' behaviour and biology, in order to complement the information given in the text. Often two or more photos are placed together to show different phases of an action, or to provide illustrative comparisons.

   Gouldian Finch - Erythrura gouldiaeIiwi - Drepanis coccineaPin-tailed - Whydah Vidua macroura

Reviewers have said:

A generously large number of excellent color photographs illustrates the text. Almost all photographs show birds in their natural habitats, some in breeding or display situations. The illustrations are formidable, some among the best ever published.
Ethology, GERMANY

These depict aspects of biology or ecology discussed in the text and give reinforcement. They are not there purely as an attractive padding to the book.
Scottish Bird News, UK

The stunning photographs make up perhaps the richest collection of high quality, informative images of birds in their natural habitats that I have ever seen. The technical and artistic qualities of the photographs are first rate.
The Condor, USA

Up to now it has been virtually impossible to see better photos.
Journal für Ornithologie, GERMANY

The colour reproduction is excellent and the choice of unusual species and rarely published photographs makes the work worthwhile in itself.



Eurasian Oystercatcher

In coastal areas, the feeding activity of Eurasian Oystercatchers is heavily dictated by tides, and birds typically roost or loaf around the period of high tide, when conditions are not ideal for foraging. Birds tend to roost communally, but off-duty breeders will remain on the territory, resting on elevated perches with good all-round visibility, such as rocky outcrops. This species is resilient in the face of inclement climatic conditions, and winters as far north as Iceland, so summer showers, which are not uncommon within its breeding range, need
pose no great problem.

[ Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus,

Foula, Shetland.

Photo: Günter Ziesler]


The captions are long and descriptive, and complement the information offered by the photographs. By simply reading the captions of any given family, one can learn much about its characteristics.

Reviewers have said:

Beyond debuts, however, are the information-rich contents of the photographs, which are accompanied by legends that teach you something and that cleverly complement the text itself.
The Condor, USA

The captions are long enough to tell the reader why that photograph has been chosen, i.e. that it illustrates some aspect mentioned in the text. In addition, the scientific name is given as well as that of the photographer and place of photographing, thus giving maximum information.


Production Quality

The reproduction and printing systems used in the production of HBW are of the highest quality, as are all the materials used to make up the books. So that all volumes remain in impeccable condition for many years to come, they have been printed on paper manufactured in a totally acid-free water system.

Reviewers have said:

This is a tremendous work where the highest standards have been employed throughout... and the production and printing are also top quality.
Birding World, UK

The book is superbly researched, formatted and produced.

One is immediately struck by the quality of production which stands comparison with the best.
The Birdwatcher's Yearbook, UK

This book is beautifully designed, the production excellent and the artwork and printing of the plates of highest quality and a tribute to all.
Honeyguide, ZIMBABWE