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A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela Paperback – May 1, 1978

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The book can be thoroughly recommended; a must for anyone visiting any part of the Neotropics."--Natural History Book Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"The Birds of Venezuela has come of age. The first edition was a marvel when it appeared back in 1978: the first book on a South American avifauna to be accurately and beautifully illustrated, by Guy Tudor. Now Steve Hilty has given us a text to match the quality of the plates, which themselves have here been substantially expanded by John Gwynne. Good succinct behavioral and vocal information, accurate and clear distribution maps, and lots of new ID information, all combine to be just what field observers and ornithologists have wanted. It was worth the wait."--Robert Ridgely, Director, International Bird Conservation, National Audubon Society --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Edition. edition (May 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691082057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691082059
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher J. Sharpe on January 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
I believe the earlier reviewers are mistakenly referring to the 1978 First Edition of this field guide (Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps 1978). As the first modern field guide to a South American avifauna, the original Birds of Venezuela is certainly now showing its age though it is still a remarkably useful field aid to the world's sixth largest national avifauna. The new edition - practically an entirely new field guide - is a very different kettle of fish. What makes this new edition different?
First of all, the new guide is twice as thick and the text is much more closely packed. The book now weighs in at over 1.8 kg (4 lbs) and is more along the lines of the field guide volume of the Birds of Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). Nearly a hundred new species are treated, taking the country total to 1381. Far more species are illustrated and more colour plates have been used, though eight black and white plates have been retained to depict flying raptors and swifts. We now have 67 plates compared with the previous 53 - a 25% increase. Twenty-five of the plates are entirely new with beautiful artwork primarily by John Gwynne. The new plates cover a range of taxa, with Cracids, owls, nightjars, toucans, tanagers, Fringillids, Emberizids and Icterids particularly well covered. A further four have been adapted from Birds of Panamá (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989) and one from Birds of Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986). The remaining 37 are basically the same Guy Tudor plates (and one by John Gwynne) from the old edition with some modifications.
To my mind, though, it is the text which has really benefited from this new edition - so much so that this should really be thought of as an entirely new field guide.
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There are a couple of risks of misunderstanding with regard to this book that must be made clear here. Firstly it is in no way a second edition. The only things in common with the first guide to the birds of Venezuela, by Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps Jr are the familiar old plates by Guy Tudor, the title, and the publisher. In all other respects it is completely new. Secondly, the "Grand-daddy" review here, clearly refers to the original book and not this one.
Having said that, there is little one can add to Chris Sharpe's comprehensive review except to say that I have already used Hilty's book extensively for research this year, along with the other current guides for other countries, and have found it to be the best. In my opinion it sets a new standard. The only small weakness worth noting here is the plates, but has there been a guide that is perfect in this respect?
For anybody birding in Venezuela, the book is an essential item to have along.
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During July 2015 Amazon notified me that this title (Birds of Venezuela, by Steven Hilty, 2003) has finally been "de-linked" from the the 1978 A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela by Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee and William H. Phelps, Jr., with illustrations by Guy Tudor and others (which in my view merits a strong four stars). I hope that's true.

In his 997 overview of Neotropical field guides Francois Vuilleumier called the 1978 guide "yet another product from the pen of the indefatigable late Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, this time in co-authorship with his equally indefatigable late friend William H. Phelps, Jr.", citing it as "certainly the best one available for a South American country". The subsequent works of many others invalidate that ranking, but I think many birders and ornithologists will find that the 1978 book retains value.

This 2003 Birds of Venezuela by Hilty (illustrated by Gwynne & Tudor) includes a considerably better set of plates, generally more detailed species accounts, range maps, and informative introductory text. It's about twice the thickness of the earlier "edition", and I find only eight plates not in color (covering mainly raptors in flights and swifts). As has become almost axiomatic, it's really too big to carry in the field, and enterprising birders may well separate the plates to create a guide devoted to that purpose.

Hilty's guide is a worthy successor to the 1978 guide, and it's the worthy precursor to a guide that is more compact and "field-friendly" without sacrificing utility. Until then, no birder venturing into Venezuela or Guyana should be without Steven Hilty's 2003 guide.
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Steve Hilty has done an outstanding job of making sense of the incredible diversity of bird life in Venezuela. This is by far the best guide to that area that you can buy. The only shortcoming is the arrangement of the plates -- they are all grouped together separate from the text -- with a bewildering array of numbers to cross-reference to the facing page of names. If you want to read the complete text and check the range map, you have to go to another page. Fortunately, the page numbers included on the page facing the plates are accurate, simplifying the process.

The only downside for this book: it is much to bulky to carry around in the field, but there is probably nothing to be done about that given the number of birds involved. Be sure to bring a backpack if you plan to use this in the field.
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