- Hardcover: 679 pages
- Publisher: Lynx Edicions; 1 edition (December 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8487334229
- ISBN-13: 978-8487334221
- Product Dimensions: 2 x 10 x 12.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,304,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos (Handbooks of the Birds of the World) Hardcover – December, 1997
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All the superlatives have already been used - yet again the editors have overseen the production of another wonderful volume in the Handbook of the Birds of the World series. The foreword on species concepts and species limits in Ornithology by Jürgen Haffer is a concise summary of this topical issue. The introductory sections to the families are comprehensive and presented in a flowing essay style. The species accounts are crammed full of information and appear thoroughly researched.
In addition to the English and scientific names, each species is given a name in French, German and Spanish. Unfortunately, the Spanish names given are often just translations of the English ones and bear little resemblance to those used in reality. For example, the Brotogeris Parakeets are given the Spanish generic name Catita, yet almost throughout their range in South America they are known as Perico.
The descriptive voice section, which first appeared for Rallidae and Gruidae in volume 3, reappears for Cuckoos here. It is a shame one is not also included for the Columbidae. The plates remain of a generally high standard, particularly those by Burn, Lewington, Rose and Willis who are among 18 artists to have contributed to this volume. However, the resulting differences in styles can be a little disconcerting when looking between plates. The superb quality of the photographs that illustrate the family texts make this book a pleasure to browse through, whilst the captions are both fascinating and informative. No one seriously interested in birds should be without a set.
Rob Williams -- World Birdwatch (BirdLife International) , 20,3 , 01/09/1998 World Birdwatch (BirdLife International), 20,3, January, 9, 1998
This impressive volume is packed with invaluable information, beautiful photographs, and detailed color plates. The book provides extensive information on the Pterocliformes, Columbiformes, Psittaciformes, and Cuculiformes; it is exhaustively researched and is also both visually attractive and highly readable. These qualities will make it worthwhile for a range of readers, from the professional ornithologist to the weekend bird watcher.
The book begins with a foreword that discusses the biological species concept as it relates to ornithology. The section is nicely done, and an asset to a volume covering diversity. The book is organized into comprehensive descriptions of each order, followed by species descriptions. The order descriptions offer useful at-a-glance information on distribution, the number of total species, genera, and threatened species. The descriptions are organized into information on systematics, morphology, habitat, general habits, vocalizations, feeding, breeding, movements, and references. In addition, each order description discusses status, conservation, and relationships with humans. The descriptions of the four orders alone (169 pages), would make a superb book on their own.
The species accounts provide scientific names and common names in several languages. They discuss taxonomy, distribution, morphology, habitat, feeding, breeding, and status. The species accounts close with lists of references that often include dozens of citations.
Visually, this volume is extraordinary, and its appeal, in addition to making the book a pleasure to read, adds to its educational value. For example, order accounts provide colorful graphics illustrating the relationship of the families, subfamilies, and tribes. They are also filled with stunning photographs of birds in their natural habitats. There is an American mourning dove (Zenaida macroura marginella) sitting in a nest in a saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), scarlett macaws (Ara macao macao) flying in a Brazilian rainforest, a red-fronted coua (Coua reynaudii) bringing food to its nest in Madagascar, plus 233 other photos. The usefulness of the photos is further enhanced by the presence of informative, paragraph-long captions.
This book is expensive, but readers will soon appreciate that it contains four books' worth of expertly-compiled information, and thus merits every penny of its cost.
John P Roche -- The Quarterly Review of Biology, Volume 74, March 1, 1999
When I reviewed Volume 3 of this series last year (SDBN 49:39-40), I described it at "the best bird book ever". This description still applies.
As in the previous volumes, the layout consists of a long section describing each bird family covered. Topics include systematics, morphology, habitat, behaviour, voice, breeding, movements, and relationships with people, including status and conservation. Following this come a series of species accounts, with notes on taxonomy, distribution (with a map), description, habitat, food, breeding, migration, status and conservation, and a bibliography.
The family description is lavishly illustrated with stunning color photographs. These photos must be the result of digital technology, as they are uniformly excellent, at times approaching three-dimensional. Outstanding in this volume is a photo of a Greater Roadrunner grasping in its beak a large rattlesnake. Another photograph is of a nearly surrealistic mob of green, blue and yellow lories, so closely packed together that there is no space between the individuals. In front of each species account section lie a series of paintings showing each of the species covered (usually males, but occasionally other plumages). The editors apologize in the introduction that the number of artists has increased from about a dozen to 18. The editors are concerned about style variations. To me, the paintings look uniformly excellent, and those of cockatoos by Lewington approach photographic quality. In total, there are 70 color plates and 236 photographs in the volume.
Again, the book's layout and design are stunning and represent a subtle improvement from the first volume. I also notice that, beginning with the cuckoos, voice is included with the species descriptions, whereas for previous families this aspect was only covered for the family in general. This addition will be very helpful with the upcoming passerine volumes.
Volume 4 comes with two added features. The first is a print of a perky Ostrich head taken from the cover of the first volume. This gift is nice (and worthy of framing); I would have preferred a reduction to the book?s cost, however small that might have been. The second is more valuable, an introductory lecture on the nature of our understanding of the species concept as it applies to birds. Ornithologists tend to think of birds species as real, rather than subjective, entities. It turns out that there are three schools of thought, those that hold to the typographical concept, the biological concept, or the phylogenetic concept. Depending on which concept you hold dear, the result in numbers of bird species recognized ranges from about 8,500 to 20,000! The author, Jurgen Haffer, argues for the biological species concept with resultant conservative totals. This forward is not easy reading and could probably have benefited by doubling its dozen pages for the benefit of the lay reader. However, the foreword, along with the introduction to avian biology in the first volume, result in a sophisticated ornithology course for any reader. So not only do you get a wonderful reference book, you get an ornithology course too.
You can glean a powerful amount of data by just skimming these volumes. I have decided to read the family accounts cover to cover. Even if I retain only a fraction of the information contained within, I will vastly increase my ornithological knowledge. (For example, did you know that pigeons and doves are almost the only birds to suck water when they drink? Or that sandgrouse young drink from water soaked into their father?s feathers and thereby transported to the nest -and to accomplish this male sandgrouse feathers have structural modifications that make them three to four times more absorbent than synthetic sponges?)
As said in my initial review, these books deserve whatever sacrifices you might need to make for their purchase. The quality of the series makes the price well worth the sacrifice. If the volumes are beyond your budget, you should make every effort to have your regional library obtain them.
Dan Tallman -- South Dakota Ornithologists' Union, Vol.50, no.2, January, 6, 1998
About the Author
D.A. Turner: Secretary, East African Natural History Society, Ornithological Sub-Committee, Nairobi, Kenya. P.W. Trail: Research associate, Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA. ARTISTS: Richard Allen, Norman Arlott, Hilary Burn, Clive Byers, John Cox, Martin Elliott, Mark Hulme, Francesc Jutglar, Àngels Jutglar, Ian Lewington, Hector C. Miranda, jr., Lluís Sanz, Etel Vilaró, Lyn Wells, Jan Wilczur, Ian Willis, Martin Woodcock, Tim Worfolk
I. Rowley: Hon. Editor, Emu, CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, Midland, Western Australia, Australia. Robert B. Payne: Professor of Zoology and Curator of Birds, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Eduardo de Juana: Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain H.M. Horblit: Field associate, Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA. J. H. Haffer: Research Associate, Section Biology and Phylogeny of Tropical Birds, A. Koenig Zoological Research Institute and Zoological Museum, Bonn, Germany. N. J. Collar: Research Fellow, BirdLife International, Cambridge, England.
L.F. Baptista: Curator and Chair, Deptartment of Ornithology and Mammalogy, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA.
Top customer reviews
Obviously, the HBW is mostly intended for well-funded libraries and research institutions. In contrast to regular reference works, however, the HBW contains a lot of truly spectacular photos (all of them in color), plus illustrations of all described species (also in color). I'm not sure if this combination of commercial appeal and super-scientific contents makes any kind of sense, but clearly *somebody* is buying it, since the editors were allowed to finish their work. As we speak, they are busy preparing a Handbook of the Mammals of the World!
This particular volume of the HBW covers the following orders: Sandgrouse, Pigeons and Doves, Cockatoos and Parrots, Turacos and Cuckoos. With the possible exception of the Sandgrouse, these birds hardly need a closer introduction.
As usual, the HBW deserves five stars, although I must once again warn the general reader about the non-popularized character of this work and the exorbitant price. However, if you have an advanced interest in birds (and a lot of money!) don't worry, you won't feel cuckolded if you really do buy one of these...
this is a great book and anyone with any kind of ornithological interest (even just a pet parrot) will find something of value in this book - Get a copy!