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WorldTwitch Book Awards 2004

2004 was another outstanding year for high quality bird books. Following are the WorldTwitch Awards based on publications seen to date. Additional awards may be granted should other deserving books come to light.

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Bird Reference Book

Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott & David Christie (eds.) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Details. 864 pages. 78 color plates plus 440 color photographs. Lynx Edicions 2004. US | UK | FR | CA

This superb volume covers the remainder of the New World suboscine passerines not included in volume 8 (cotingas, manakins and tyrant flycatchers), the New Zealand Wrens (now provisionally placed in their own suborder between the suboscines and oscines), the Australian scrub-birds and lyre-birds (here separated from the bowerbirds and Australian treecreepers), and the larks, swallow and pipits. It incorporates taxonomic revisions and new information discovered since the publication of Ridgely & Tudor volume 2, along with color paintings of many species not previously illustrated. As always, the species accounts have been written by leading experts and incorporate the latest reports from the field. The family summaries are lucid and illustrated with excellent photographs, including many from eastern Brazil.

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Bird Book - Africa

Nik Borrow & Ron Demey. Birds of Western Africa. Princeton University Press 2004.Nik Borrow & Ron Demey. Birds of Western Africa. 512 pages. Helm & Princeton University Press 2004. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Complete, hardcover edition (2002): US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is a reduced, paperback field version of the authors' West Africa guide, which received a WorldTwitch Book Award in 2002. It suffers from the same fundamental problem as the larger volume, namely that many of the color plates were printed so dark as to obscure colors and distinguishing features. This is a more serious problem in the field guide version, as the bird illustrations are reduced. However, the Borrow & Demy field guide should be easier to use than Van Perlo's even more compact and lighter-printed field guide, which received a WorldTwitch Book Award in 2003. The illustrations, text and maps are all larger in Borrow & Demy. In many cases, there are striking differences in the illustrations. Thus, to take one difficult example, the Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds on plate 75 in Borrow & Demy not only look much different than the illustrations on plate 59 of Van Perlo, but apparent differences between the sympatric species in one book are not present in the other. Considering the difficulty of identifying birds in most of West Africa from portable publications available prior to 2002, the full-size guide and field guide by Borrow and Demy and the compact guide by Van Perlo rank among the most welcome additions to ornithological literature in recent years.

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Bird Book - Australasia (3 Awards)

Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parrish PublishingMichael Morcombe. Field Guide to Australian Birds: Complete Compact Edition. Steve Parrish Publishing 2004. Details. ISBN: 1740215591. 4" x 8.5". 384 pages. This is the most compact Australian field guide since Slater (1986). It sets new standards for usability and for use of available space in a compact field guide, cramming an enormous quantity of helpful information into a narrow book only slightly heavier than Slater. Whereas Slater is arranged conventionally, with text on left and bird plates on right, Morcombe merges color bird illustrations with related text, with concise ID notes next to each Peterson pointer. Graduated color range maps show subspecies. Summary pages grouping thumbnails of similar species are useful for navigation and size comparisons. This is the book I would carry in the field in Australia.
Michael Morcombe. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.Michael Morcombe. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing. Revised edition, 2004 (2000). 448 pages. Online updates. About 3400 illustrations and 800 maps, with 1000 illustrations of nests and eggs. The revised edition includes at least seven new color plates. Tremendous amount of useful information in a large (6.5" x 9.5") field guide. Improved Simpson & Day format, with species separation lines carried across to the facing plates to align paintings with text. Peterson pointers and detailed notes on the plates, as in Mullarney et al., only much more extensive - almost like a field notebook, taking full advantage of the large paper format. Probably the best of the guides I have seen for foreign twitchers learning the Australian birds. Birds of territorial islands, i.e., Christmas, Lord Howe, Torres Strait, Heard, etc., are covered in the same fashion in an appendix. UK | FR | CA
Ken Simpson & Nicolas Day. Birds of Australia. Penguin Books Australia, Princeton University Press & Helm. 7th edition 2004. 392 pages. 132 color plates including 16 new or revised plates. Revised distribution maps with all subspecies shown. This book is smaller, lighter and more portable than the large format field guides by Morcombe and Pizzey & Knight, but about 2 inches wider than the Morcombe and Slater compact guides. In the 7th edition, the Handbook section at the end has been condensed by more than 50 pages, saving additional weight. The plates are attractive, and the seabird paintings may be the most useful of those in the various Australian guides. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Bird Family Books (3 Awards)

Clifford & Dawn Frith. The Bowerbirds. Oxford University Press 2004. 508 pages. 6 color plates by Eustace Barnes plus 2 plates of color photographs of bowers and nests. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is my favorite volume thus far in Oxford's Bird Families of the World series. While bowerbirds are hand-tame and extensively studied in parts of Australia, some species in New Guinea can be extremely difficult to locate and observe. Consequently, vastly more information is available on the species that occur in Australia than on the New Guinea endemics. The Friths, who must be the world's leading bowerbird experts, have pulled together virtually everything known about the rarest New Guinea species, while furnishing well-written, concise accounts of the Australian species.

Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America.Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson (illustrator). Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. 544 pages. 93 color plates. Helm & Princeton University Press. Revised edition, 2004. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

Unlike the two other books honored in this category, Olsen and Larsson's Gulls is an identification guide for field birders. This book provides fast access to key issues in gull identification, which can be frustratingly difficult, with detailed descriptions of the numerous plumages, more than 800 annotated color photographs, and color paintings. It is the single best source for gull identification in the northern hemisphere and is likely to be taken into the field more often than any other "bird families" book.

Michael Brooke. Albatrosses and Petrels across the World. 499 pages. 16 color plates by John Cox. 10 introductory chapters, followed by 125 individual species accounts. Oxford University Press 2004. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is a handy, very well-written reference that will be of particular interest to pelagic birders who want to know more about the petrels and albatrosses. The first 165 pages cover the history, biology and conservation of petrels and albatrosses. The remainder of the book is devoted to species accounts, along with 48 pages of references. A two-page account of the rediscovered New Zealand Storm Petrel with a black-and-white photo was inserted at the front just as the book was going to press.

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Ornithology Book

Sandy Podulka, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney (eds.) Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Handbook of Bird Biology.Sandy Podulka, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney (eds.) Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Handbook of Bird Biology. 1248 pages. Princeton University Press (2d edition 2004). US | UK | DE | FR | CA

While intended as a textbook for use in a college-level course in ornithology, virtually every birder will benefit from time spent with this heavily revised and updated handbook. It covers all things avian, from the origins of birds to forensic examination of feathers, and even includes a CD of audio tracks carefully selected to demonstrate the diversity of bird sounds. The handbook is well written for quick and pleasant reading -- quite the opposite of many of the books I recall from college, such as "Paradise Lost", Electromagnetism and Comparative Governments. Even long-time, regular readers of the major ornithological journals are likely to learn something from the handbook.

WorldTwitch 2004 Best Birding Adventure Book

Stephen Moss. A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching. Aurum Press.Stephen Moss. A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching. 375 pages. Aurum Press 2004. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is the best book about birding since Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book. It traces the history of British birding and the development of birding norms and terminology, and reports on some of the overseas trips that launched intensive world twitching.

WorldTwitch 2000 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2001 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2002 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2003 Book Awards

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