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Books on Owls & Nightjars of the World

Claus König, Friedhelm Weick and Jan-Hendrik Becking. Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World. Details. 462 pages. Pica Press & Yale University Press 1999. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
James R. Duncan. Owls of the World: Their lives, behavior & survival. Details. 320 pages. 325 color photographs. Key Porter Books & Firefly Press 2003. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Claus König & Richard Ranft. A Sound Guide to the Owls of the World. 2 CDs. Helm & Yale University Press. Forthcoming 2007? US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Nightjars and their alliesDavid T. Holyoak. Illustrated by Martin Woodcock. Nightjars & Their Allies. WorldTwitch 2001 Best Bird Families Book Award. 796 pages, 23 color plates, numerous halftones and line drawings. Oxford University Press 2001. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Nigel Cleere & Dave Nurney. A Guide to the Nightjars, Nighthawks and Their Relatives. Details. 320 pages. Pica Press and Yale University Press 1998. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Richard Ranft and Nigel Cleere, A Sound Guide to the Nightjars and Related Nightbirds. 1 CD. Helm and Yale University Press 1998. Contains recordings of a number of forms not previously available on commercial tapes. US | UK | FR | CA
Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott & Jordi Sargatal (eds.) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 5, Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Details. 759 pages. 76 color plates plus 406 photographs. Lynx Edicions 1999. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
A Photographic Guide to the Nightjars of the World by Nigel CleereNigel Cleere. A Photographic Guide to the Nightjars of the World. Includes all nightjars, potoos, frogmouths, oilbird and owlet-nightjars. WILDGuides Ltd. 2005. Photographs wanted.
Ecology and Conservation of OwlsIan Newton, Rodney Kavanagh, Jerry Olsen & Iain Taylor (eds.) Ecology and Conservation of Owls. Proceedings of the Owls 2000 Conference held at the Australian National University, Canberra - the Third International Symposium on Owls. Details. CSIRO 2002. [Second International Symposium 1997 online here.] US | UK | DE | FR | CA

This will be an ongoing review of current references on the owls, nightjars, potoos, frogmouths, and owlet-nightjars of the world. Even though our knowledge of nightbirds has increased exponentially since the introduction of portable tape recorders, most species remain poorly known, and the number of species continues to increase as additional data are collected and analyzed. Thus, all current publications are essentially interim works that will need to be updated periodically to take into account newly-discovered information.

Except for the handful of diurnal species, such as Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl and Short-eared Owl, nightbirds are much more likely to be heard than seen. Furthermore, some particularly elusive species, such as Mountain Scops-owl and Bornean Frogmouth, are extremely difficult to see even with expert use of tape playback. Consequently, for field birders, knowledge of voices is crucial for finding and surveying nightbirds. The first commercial recordings devoted entirely to nightbirds were the late  J.W. Hardy's tapes of Neotropical Owls and Neotropical Nightjars and Potoos. The Nightjars CD and forthcoming Owls CDs extend coverage to the entire world to the extent currently possible -- some species, including the monotypic Maned Owl Jubula lettii of West Africa, have not yet been tape recorded. Since available tapes and CDs only contain a relatively small sample of nightbird vocalizations, voice descriptions continue to be useful.

HBW Volume 5

Volume 5 of the Handbook of the Birds of the World covers all the nightbirds along with hummingbirds in one volume. (It may be too heavy for comfortable use by people with arthritis or tendonitis.) In typical HBW format, a well-written introductory chapter on each family illustrated with numerous color photos precedes individual species accounts illustrated with color paintings of all known species. You can quickly identify the most poorly known birds, since their species accounts are short and in some cases nearly devoid of information. Taxonomy is based on the consensus of the editors as of the time of publication. Thus, for example, Blakiston's Fish-Owl has been moved from Ketupa to Bubo. The editors generally follow splits proposed by ornithologists, with the result that there are more species of birds worked on by "splitters", for example pygmy-owls in Mexico and scops-owls in the Southeast Asian islands, than of birds studied by "lumpers" or not studied at all.

To be continued . . .

Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall