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Birds of Africa South of the Sahara: A Comprehensive Illustrated Field Guide Paperback – March 1, 2009

23 customer reviews

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Paperback, March 1, 2009
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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2003 Best Bird Book - Africa, Worldtwitch
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

IAN SINCLAIR is renowned in African birding circles for his field knowledge and expertise in identifying the region’s many bird species. His vast experience has been gained in expeditions to every corner of Africa, as well as to the Himalayas, Antarctica and Marion Island. He has authored or co-authored several successful bird books, including the hugely successful Field Guide to Birds of SA and the equally successful Birds of Southern Africa.

Dr. PETER RYAN is an associate professor at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, a partner of 'Birding Africa' and a keen birder who has led numerous birding tours in southern Africa. A long-standing member of the SA Rarities Committee, his research interests include the evolutionary ecology of birds and island conservation. He is co-editor of the current revision of Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 760 pages
  • Publisher: Struik Publishers (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1868728579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1868728572
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,679,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Robert K. Furrer on February 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the first field guide type book that enables birdwatchers to get an overview of what mainland Africa has to offer as far as birds are concerned. The only area that is not covered by this book is North Africa. Most of that is included in every major field guide for Europe. So in the end, just a few species of northern Sudan escape coverage in this way. Compared with other books that claim to be field guides, this one is still relatively compact. Certainly so, when one takes into account the incredibly rich avifauna. A total of more than 2100 species are covered.
The color plates, as a whole, are excellent. As they were drawn by a number of artists, the general impression of "unity" is missing to some extent. But that is a problem of most modern field guides, as it would take too long - in an impatient market - for one artist to come up with a full set of good plates. The original South-African publisher Struik had the possibility to use many pictures from other field guides they publish. This may have been the only way to make such a monumental task feasible at all.
The texts and range maps are opposite the plates. This practical - and customary - arrangement necessitates rather short texts. However, they are very informative, providing the essentials for a field guide like field identification, habitat, abundance, and voice. The range maps do not show seasonal changes, but the texts compensate to some degree with brief hints.
For some areas of Africa, this is the first field guide available, whereas one would probably take recourse to the more compact regional books where they are available. At any rate, the publishers are to be congratulated to this most valuable and well organized book.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Laszlo Wagner on June 11, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has taken on a monumental task by introducing the entire bird fauna of a huge region in one volume.
I was sceptical before seeing it, thinking that quantity would probably take priority over quality. It did not!
For a start, it is surprisingly detailed and well-organized. The editors have resisted the usual temptetion of cramming too many similar or small species on one page. Usually there are just 5-6 species on each page, sometimes 7 or just 3-4.
What this means is that illustrations are big enough to show detail, plus there are often 4 or more different illustrations for the same 1 species, showing different colour morphs, juveniles, females, birds in flight, head or wing details, etc.
It also means that the maps and text for each species could be placed on the page facing its picture.
The text itself is still amazingly detailed for a book of this scope, giving the essential information on distribution, appearence, habitat, status and voice.
Too good to be true? Well, some of the illustrations show important colour or pattern details wrongly, even contradicting description in the text - in these cases the text tends be more accurate, so have a look at that one, too!
But all in all, this book is a great value introduction to the bird fauna of Africa, though perhaps unsurprisingly, I found it a bit too bulky to carry on the field.

Note that while shown here as out of print, another edition of the very same book by another publisher is still readily available here!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michel Buenerd on February 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
I used it in Cameroon last year and in Niger this year. Although it suffers some weaknesses, like some breeding/non-breeding plumage difference not documented, and like some upper-parts of raptors not shown, this is definitely one of the books any birdwatcher must have in his pocket in the West Africa bush, and I would not leave without it, although it is a little worn out now. The Borrow & Demey is a good complement.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Sinclair's and Ryan's "Birds of Africa South of the Sahara" is still the best field guide for Africa and - together with Svensson's "Collins Bird Guide' and Sibley's Guide to the North American Birds - one of the three the best field guides of the world.
To tell the true, changes in the second edition are hardly noticeable when one is comparing it with the first edition. I would even say that in the previous one illustrations were better because they were a bit brighter, not so dark (too dark) as now. Still, fortunately, they are very good and impressive. It is really amazing that all sub-Saharian birds are collected in single volume - not to thick and really handy and practically usable when one compares it to the monstrual, inconvenient guides to South American Birds (e. g. "Birds of Ecuador" or "Birds of Northern South America"). However, the book is rather uneven: it is fantastic guide to the non-passerines (a lot of bird's positions and plumages, including flying birds) and not so fantastic as for the passerines (generally, passerines are not shown flying - which is really the book's great lack, particularly when one compares it to the Collins or Sibley's Bird Guides). Some justification for this lack may be much greater amount of species in Africa than in Europe or North America. Unfortunately, a lot of passerines is also observed in the field only when flying, not posing without moving "as in the picture" - what would be the best sollution for birdwatchers... Despite this lack, I strongly recommend this book to the all birdwatchers going to Africa - the more so that systematics and nomenclature of birds is definitely up-to-date, taking into account new discoveries of genetics and new division of some species into separate species (e. g., black kite and yellow-billed kite, green-backed and grey backed camaroptera, division of red-billed hornbill into different species etc.)
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