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WorldTwitch Book Awards 2001

The second Golden Age of bird books shows no signs of abating as of early 2002. Indeed, so many worthwhile books came out in 2001 that it almost seems unfair to select a few for special honors.

Here are the winners. Further comments (and perhaps additional awards) will be added as time permits. I wish to thank the authors, artists and editors who have toiled to make these fine bird books available, usually for minimal financial gain.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book for World Twitchers

Threatened Birds of the World. The official source for birds on the IUCN Red List. Allison J. Stattersfield & David R. Capper, Project managers & senior editors. Guy C.L. Dutson, Michael I. Evans, Rachel K. McClellan, Nicholas B. Peet, Sue M. Shutes, Thomas E.H. Stuart, Joe A. Tobias & David C. Wege, Additional editors. BirdLife International and Lynx Edicions. January 2001. 8 1/2" x 12". 852 pages. What an impressive work! Illustrations have been borrowed from the best recent bird books and supplemented with paintings of birds not otherwise illustrated. Each species account includes a range map, identification, range and population, ecology, threats conservation, targets and references. Some new species are recognized, becoming instant threatened or endangered species. I find it difficult to put this book down when I pick it up and start reading. This is a guide to where you need to go birding - NOW. US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird-Finding Guide

Sargeant, Birdwatching Guide to OmanBirdwatching Guide to Oman, by Hanne & Jens Eriksen and Panadda & Dave E. Sargeant. Al Roya Publishing 2001. 253 pages. Covers 60+ top birding sites. 92 color photographs, 64 full-page color maps, and 22 line drawings. (Sample pages.) Distribution grid, annotated Bird Finder showing where to find each species, monthly bird calendar, and Oman bird checklist. This is the finest bird-finding guide I have ever seen. It contains everything you will need for a birding trip to Oman, including accommodations and transportation directories with telephone numbers and URLs. Oman is a safe country on an important migration route between Asia and the Horn of Africa. At the time of publication, 468 species of birds had been recorded. The number is certain to increase, as this book already seems to be causing an uptick in birding tourism to Oman. Online updates.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Checklist

Rodner, Checklist of the Birds of Northern South AmericaClemencia Rodner, Miguel Lentino & Robin Restall. Checklist of the Birds of Northern South America: An annotated checklist of the species and subspecies of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Outstanding compilation of useful information onto handy charts. For each of 2,245 species, shows the currently accepted common and scientific names, subspecies, known and suspected distribution, altitude range, genus history, and proposed splits. View sample page. Pica Press & Yale University Press 2001. 136 pages. US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - Europe and the Middle East

Shirihai et al., Sylvia Warblers (Princeton University Press)Shirihai et al., Sylvia Warblers (Christopher Helm)Hadoram Shirihai, Gabriel Gargallo & Andreas Helbig. Illustrated by Alan Harris. Photos by David Cottridge. Distribution maps by C.S. Roselaar. Edited by Guy Kirwan & Lars Svensson. Sylvia Warblers. Christopher Helm & Princeton University Press 2001. 572 pages. 20 color plates. 546 color photographs. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

The genus Sylvia includes such common European songbirds as the Blackcap and Garden Warbler, localized endemics including Cyprus Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, and Rüppell's Warbler, and the species formally placed in Parisoma (eg, Yemen Warbler). (For those in North America without European field experience, the closest relative of Sylvia is the Wrentit, Chamaea fasciata.) Identification of silent birds in non-breeding and sub-adult plumages during migration can be problematic. This book provides exhaustive coverage of the attractive and interesting genus, comprising 22 species recognized by the authors. The numerous hand-held color photos are particularly helpful in illustrating differences among confusing plumages.

I wish that there were a book like Sylvia Warblers on every confusing genus. It compiles and greatly expands upon the best information and articles from British Birds, Dutch Birding, and Birding World.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - North America (2 Awards)

Steve N.G. Howell. Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide. 219 pages. Poyser 2001 & Princeton University Press 2003. More than 200 photos with illustrations of some little-known field marks. Emphasizes plumages that are difficult to identify. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

While paintings clearly work best for identification of most birds, good photographs when available may be preferable for hummingbirds, as they usually are for butterflies. Hummingbirds often approach very closely, permitting careful observation of minutiae. Nevertheless, nondescript female and immature birds are not identified or are misidentified on nearly every Neotropical trip due to the absence of adequate field guides. There is considerably less chance for error in the U.S., where only 24 species have been recorded. This specialized guide should solve most of the difficult field problems, including identification of vagrant Rufous/Allen's Hummingbirds, given adequate views.

Richard Conner, D. Craig Randolph & Jeffrey R. Walters. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker: Surviving in a Fire-maintained Ecosystem. Details. University of Texas Press 2001. 432 pages. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is one of the most threatened birds of North America, mainly as a result of industrial logging and fire suppression in the southeastern pine forests where it lives. Two of the four localities where I have observed Red-cockaded Woodpeckers no longer have any birds, which is representative of the wholesale range retraction in recent years.

This is an outstanding study that covers the history, ecology, and conservation of Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the endangered southern pine communities in which it lives. Anyone interested in woodpeckers will appreciate the detailed life history information. It is ironic that thanks to the work of Red-cockaded biologists such as the authors of this book, detailed ecological information about this rare species is more easily accessible than information about many common woodpecker species.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - Africa

Field Guide to the Birds of East AfricaTerry Stevenson & John Fanshawe. Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda & Burundi. 287 color plates by Brian Small, John Gale & Norman Arlott. Poyser and Princeton University Press 2001. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Paperback edition (2006): US | UK | DE | FR | CA

An outstanding field guide: see my review on the WorldTwitch Bird Book Discussion Board.

The important birding areas of Uganda and central and southern Tanzania finally have received excellent coverage in a modern field guide. The text has been kept concise in order to fit on pages facing the plates. Be sure to place a full-length bookmark in your copy to prevent the red maps from reflecting onto the bird paintings.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - South America

Ridgely & Greenfield, The Birds of Ecuador, volume 1Ridgely & Greenfield, The Birds of Ecuador, volume 2Robert S. Ridgely & Paul J. Greenfield. The Birds of Ecuador. 2 volumes. Cornell University Press & Helm. 2001.
Vol. 1: Status, Distribution & Taxonomy. 768 pages. 115 line drawings. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Vol. 2: A Field Guide. 816 pages. 96 color plates. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
2-Volume set with slipcase US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This 2-volume set represents another great leap forward in South American ornithology. Separating the field guide into a second volume enabled the authors to avoid the artificial constraints that a one-volume format would have imposed. While it still would be advisable to take both volumes on a trip to Ecuador, the first volume may be left in a hotel room or car.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - Asia

Smythies, Birds of BorneoBertram E. Smythies. The Birds of Borneo. Natural History Publications (Borneo). 4th edition 2000 (arrived here in 2001). Revised by Geoffrey W.H. Davison. 853 pages. Restores the very interesting introductory chapters about Borneo and its people from the first two editions. The WorldTwitch award is granted solely for Davison's superb text, which constitutes a vast improvement over prior editions, rather than the now familiar and dated plates, which might have been omitted. Essential reference on Malaysian ornithology. US | UK | DE | FR | CA


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Book - Indian Ocean

Skerrett, Birds of the SeychellesAdrian Skerrett and Ian Bullock. Illustrated by Tony Disley. Field Guide to the Birds of the Seychelles. Christopher Helm & Princeton University Press 2001. 320 pages. 53 color plates. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

Perhaps this category is a bit of a stretch, but I think that it's important to have a modern field guide to the Seychelles, home to some of the world's best-known rare birds, including the recovering Seychelles Magpie-Robin and recently extinct Aldabra Warbler. The guide should be beneficial for nature tourism, which would be far preferable to additional resort development.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Families Books (3 Awards)

This is a particularly difficult category to judge, as there are a number of worthy contenders. I suppose the choice tilts as much toward one's individual preferences as anything else. Hawk enthusiasts might choose the hefty new Raptors of the World book, sunbird fanciers the Sunbirds book, thrasher chasers the Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers book, and so on. My own preferences are to look at the color plates of ground pigeons and fruit pigeons from the Asian and Australasian Islands in Pigeons and Doves, and similarly, to study the plates of thrushes from the same regions that are almost impossible to see well in the wild, in the Thrushes book. In addition, the massive new Nightjars and Their Allies contains additional information not in the more compact Nightjars book by Cleere (1998). While all the species covered in bird families treatises either have been or will be covered in the Handbook of Birds of the World, the single volumes are more easily accessible than HBW and offer plates that may or may not be better than those in HBW, but are different, and some species have rarely been illustrated or photographed.

Clement, ThrushesClement, ThrushesPeter Clement. Illustrated by Ren Hathway, with additional illustrations by Jan Wilczur & Clive Byers. Thrushes. Includes unpublished data from leading field birders such as Jon Hornbuckle. Christopher Helm & Princeton University Press 2001. 424 pages. 60 color plates. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Gibbs, Pigeons & DovesDavid Gibbs. Illustrated by Eustace Barnes & John Cox. Pigeons and Doves. A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Pica Press & Yale University Press 2001. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Nightjars and their alliesDavid T. Holyoak. Illustrated by Martin Woodcock. Nightjars & Their Allies. 796 pages, 23 color plates, numerous halftones and line drawings. Oxford University Press 2001. Most birds covered by this book are more often heard than seen. While this volume has more than twice as many pages as Cleere, it is much easier to use due to the larger type and superior layout. US | UK | DE | FR | CA

WorldTwitch 2001 Technical Innovation Award

Swash & Still, Birds, Mammals & Reptiles of the Galápagos IslandsAndy Swash & Robert Still. Illustrations by Ian Lewington. Birds, Mammals & Reptiles of the Galápagos Islands. This is an impressive little guide that anyone, birder or not, visiting the Galápagos should take along. Robert Still, a computer graphics expert, has seamlessly combined digitally enhanced photographs onto plates. This is the first field guide I have seen with thorough coverage of the endemic rice rats and lava lizards. 168 pages. Pica Press & Yale University Press 2000. Second edition 2006, with corrections and additional photos: US | UK | DE | FR | CA

While the book is dated 2000, I believe that it was released in North America in 2001, hence qualifying for this year's awards. Besides providing a handy single-volume wildlife guide for Latin America's dominant ecotourism destination, this book demonstrates that skillful computer graphics work can make a photographic field guide attractive. For those of us lacking even the most rudimentary artistic ability, it is encouraging to see that technology can help make up for human deficiencies.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Birding Adventure Book

Mathiessen, The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes

Peter Mathiessen. The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes. Color and b/w illustrations by Robert Bateman. 349 pages. North Point Press 2001. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Paperback reprint: US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This is quite simply the best birding adventure book I have read in many years. Each chapter is about a different, successful expedition in search of cranes. What's missing, out of necessity, are the details that twitchers crave, such as annotated species lists and stakeout maps. They might have required an appendix as long as the text. A solution for adventure books aimed at a general audience might be to post species lists, maps, itineraries and other relevant information on a website for the few especially keen readers.


WorldTwitch 2001 Best Value Natural History Book

Gemetrid Caterpillars of Northeastern and Appalachian Forests

David L. Wagner, Douglas C. Ferguson, Timothy L. McCabe & Richard C. Reardon. Geometrid Caterpillars of Northeastern and Appalachian Forests. Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Publication FHTET-2001-10 (September 2001). 237 pages. Covers approximately 190 species, with a 3" x 4.75" color photo of each caterpillar (live) and a color thumbnail photo of each adult moth (specimen). Free. For copies, contact Richard Reardon: rreardon[at]fs.fed.us.


WorldTwitch 2000 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2002 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2003 Book Awards
WorldTwitch 2004 Book Awards


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