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A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America Hardcover – April 27, 1995

4.1 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


`... a must for anyone with an interest in neotropical birds' David Tomlinson, New Scientist, August 1995

`This guide is a major contribution to field ornithology and birding in Mexico and northern Central America. Most highly recommended.' Wildlife Activist, No. 25, December 1995

`Few, however, who actually looked at this book would question its importance, as it radiates authority and excellence. One of its most prominent features is the sheer quantity of information not available from any of the region's comparable field guides ... maps are a highly commendable ... the plates are very good; they are accurate in plumage details and postures, and species within a plate are to scale. Especially striking are the plates depicting cryptically plumaged species such as owls (plates 25 and 26), nightjars (plate 27) and sparrows (plates 63 and 64) ... wealth of information presented and its excellence. Few guides are better value for money: produced on good quality paper with 71 colour plates, the softback edition costs only L25.00. It will quickly become the main guide to the region's birds.' Adrian Long, The Ibis, 1996, Vol. 138

`impressive book ... As a guide to one of the ornithologically richest parts of the world, this book is unlikely to be superseded for a very long time.' Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, Volume 115, No. 3, September 1995

`This is a first-class book by any standards and will clearly not be superseded in the foreseeable future.' Bryan Sage, Country-Side, October-November 1995

`the book is well researched, produced, and published, a valuable addition to any birdwatcher's library ... a most invaluable resource' Jack Siegel, Nature Canada, Autumn 1996

`...The result of this immense labor is not just a very fine field guide, but also a manual to the birds of Mexico and northern central America. This extraordinary achievement is not likely to be improved in the near future...This wonderful book treats about 1070 species...the maps in Howell and Webb are excellent....mandatory reading not only for all birders but also for some professional ornithologists...superb, extremely well-prepared species accounts, its very clear range maps, and its magnificent plates, which are beautifully reproduced, all converge towards making this book an exceptional volume' Ornitologia Neotropical (1997) 8: 195-236 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Steve N.G. Howell is a Research Associate of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in Stinson Beach, California.
Sophie Webb has been drawing and studying birds most of her life. She is also a Research Associate at the Point Reyes Observatory.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1010 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198540132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198540137
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 2.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,435,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After reading this guide almost cover to cover, and field testing it in several locations in the guide area, I believe that this may very well be the best bird guide that has ever been written for a geographical area. The book is quite large (23.3 x 14.3 x 4.4 cm) and heavy (about 3 lbs), with 71 color plates sandwiched between over 850 pages of text. In spite of it being a bit cumbersome in the field, it is an essential resource that should always be close at hand when studying birds of this region.
The introduction is a lengthy 90 pages that includes a wealth of information such as geography, climate, ornithological history, conservation efforts per country, taxonomy, and an excellent outline of the species accounts which includes a bird topography page and a glossary for looking up words like heterodactyl or vermiculations. It can not be overstated that all of this is worth reading for a greater understanding of the species' descriptions.
The species accounts are packed with information and written in a easily accessed style. The accounts are taxonomically organized and preceding every taxonomic order, family and large genus is an introduction concerning their identification and habits. Every species is named by its American name, latin name, and its Spanish name. I have found the Spanish names to be almost worthless since they are so regional, but I am glad to see that Howell has made an attempt at standardizing them. All the species identification pieces are well written with sexual and age differences given lots of space. I particularly like the voice sections where he writes out in letters how he hears the songs and calls. There are some songs and calls of resident birds that he has omitted, but it would take up too much space to include all the calls.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will be brief - I find this to be the best field guide to the birds of any neotropical region currently available, and I pretty much have studied them all on depth! The only guides that come close to this level of usefulness are Hilty's Columbia field guide and the new Ridgely/Greenfield Ecuador 2 volume set. This book has excellent, seasonally specific range maps, and illustrates many plumage variations. I am astonished to read other reviews in which this book is considered cumbersome, because all too often smaller, lighter books sacrifice completness of information and thoroughness, which compromises their usefulness. True, it's a hefty volume, but it treats a complex avifauna without sacrificing necessary information. The other criticism I was surprised by was that the pictures were too "cartoonlike"; I have found these plates to be some of the most useful in the field, for they emphasize key characteristics with clarity. In the field, simplicity is far more practical than overly-detailed artwork which may be more lifelike, but blurs the differences between species. Anyway, praise for Howell! May this volume set an example for future field guides throughout Latin America!
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Format: Paperback
When I first received this book, I was overwhelmed by its size and weight - it is bigger than the typical field guide. However, after using it for one week in Mexico I was won over. It contains a wealth of useful well-organized info, about each species, plus plates and drawings which are both beautiful and carefully accurate. I found myself reading in it extensively nearly every evening, just for pleasure. Helpful tip: supplement it with a standard North American field guide. Common NA species which occur in Mexico and Central America are not always pictured in plates or drawings, though they are clearly described.
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Format: Paperback
I just got back from a one-week trip to Guatemala where I used the Howell and Webb guide which was reported as the best book by other birders and naturalists while I was there.
The only real alternative guide to use in Guatemala (based on my travels) would be to only bird in northern Guatemala, in Tikal for example, and use the premiere Belize guide which I'm sorry I don't have the name of right now. I encountered a guide in Tikal who was using the Belize book for his group.
As for the H&W, the one drawback, of course, is the weight of the book but it is an all-inclusive book about Mexico and N. Central America with descriptions of ecological areas within that region, appendices, glossary, etc. The maps were easy to use although they were only in black and white. The pictures are all placed in the middle of the book to keep their similarly glossy pages together -- the text pages would be significantly heavier, I believe, if they were printed on the same paper and I assume costs would be higher to place the picture pages next to the text pages. However, although the pictures section is separate from the full text, under each species name opposite the picture page is a brief account of important field marks/voice to identify each bird and to help contrast with similar species.

Before purchasing the book I read the frustrations of other birders that pictures of many ducks and other winter migrants to the area were not included. This really isn't a problem for a birder moderately familiar with N. American birds. In fact, if this book contained all those pictures and descriptions the added weight in paper may have precluded me from taking it into the field at all. I realized that my Sibley Field Guide to Eastern N.
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