Europe & Middle East
& Mailing Lists
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
Details. 864 pages. 78 color plates plus 440 color
photographs. Lynx Edicions 2004.
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
Borrow & Ron Demey. Birds of Western Africa. 512 pages.
Helm & Princeton University Press 2004.
Complete, hardcover edition (2002):
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
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.
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.
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.
WorldTwitch 2004 Best Bird Family Books (3 Awards)
& 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.
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.
Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson (illustrator). Gulls of Europe,
Asia and North America. 544 pages. 93 color plates. Helm &
Princeton University Press. Revised edition, 2004.
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.
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
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
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).
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
WorldTwitch 2004 Best Birding Adventure Book
Moss. A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching.
375 pages. Aurum Press 2004.
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
WorldTwitch 2001 Book
WorldTwitch 2002 Book
WorldTwitch 2003 Book