All the Birds of Brazil
All the Birds of Brazil - An Identification Guide by Deodato Souza - 356 pages, col illus, maps, Available from NHBS and Subbuteo Natural History Books ISBN 1905268017
Are you like me? Do you skip introductions and prefaces and dive straight into the body of the work? Well, just for once, take my advice and read the introductory couple of pages of this one, for therein lies most of what I would say about it:
This book is not a beginner’s manual to birdwatching, nor does it intend to summarize or encompass all that one could possible know about the birds of Brazil. Its aim is simply that of a field guide, with all the limitations and idiosyncrasies that this implies… This book is basically aimed at helping you identify a bird that you can see and/or hear but which does not offer you all the features you wish it did. Even if you are holding a bird in your hand or looking at a bird in a cage, normal conditions are seldom the perfect ones for this task. So this book gives you hints and tips, not academic descriptions...
As it aims quite low it reaches its target – it is a series of pictures of birds with the briefest of descriptions and distribution maps to help you in the field when looking at an unfamiliar Brazilian bird. When this book was first published there were no other filedguides, nor any of the large birding tomes Brazil warrants. However, there is now the truly beautiful ‘Birds of Brazil’ by Tomas Sigrist and, I gather, another long-awaited guide is very close to publication.
Will this book be able to stand up against the opposition. Well Tomas Sigrists paintings are truly superb, a delight to the eye and feather-accurate… but it would require the strength of an Audubon* to carry it about! I suspect the the forthcoming guide will also be much, much weightier than this. The drawings are as poor as any I have seen in a modern guide but, in its own terms they do the job giving you all the necessary ID features to help you separate similar looking birds.
What about descriptions and distribution maps. Once again this volume cannot compete on accuracy or fullness but wins out on being light in weight.
In short this really is what it says it is – a fieldguide… something light enough to carry into the filed to use as it is intended. It will not delight the eye and just about every description leaves you wanting more and every map can leave you uncertain on distribution but I doubt that it will be replaced by anything more ambitious as they would all be too big to handle.
We are fortunate that there are soon to be three books on the birds of Brazil as I suspect anyone contemplating a trip will want all three, with this book going on for many reprints and new editions as it is as portable as one could get away with whilst still being comprehensive.
* John Audubon carried his ‘elephant’ book of folios around Europe looking for sponsors.
Created: 12th Jul 2006