| Birds of Venezuela | By David Ascanio & Gustavo A Rodriguez | Illustrated by Robin Restall | Bloomsbury| Paperback | Feb 2017 | 592 Pages | 248 Colour Photos, Maps and Illustrations | ISBN: 9781408105351 | £39.99p |
The Publisher’s View:
Venezuela is blessed with one of the largest avifaunas in the world. More than 1,400 species have been recorded in the country, thanks to a great diversity of habitats ranging from the High Andes to lowland Amazonian rainforest, and just about everything in between. Its strategic position in the north of South America also ensures that it receives many non-breeding migrants, both from the north and from the south. Add to this a good number of endemics, and you have all the ingredients for a top birding destination.
This brand new field guide has been written to fulfil the needs of both visiting and resident birders by providing a single-volume, portable field guide that covers every species recorded in the country. It has been written specifically to make it easier to identify birds in a country where the bewildering number of species can be a real challenge. The concise text concentrates on the key information needed to identify a species (or subspecies), and the distinctions from confusing or similar species. Up to date distribution maps are provided for every species.
The illustrations are placed opposite the text for easy reference and cover all major plumage variations, whether they are seasonal, sexual, age-related or racial. Birds of Venezuela has been designed to be both portable in the field and user-friendly. It is the only guide you will need to identify birds in Venezuela and is a major new addition to the Helm Field Guides series.
David Ascanio is Venezuela’s top field birder. He has travelled extensively throughout Venezuela and elsewhere in the neotropics, and has field experience of almost every species in the book. He runs his own travel agency in Venezuela and has led bird tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours for more than 20 years.
Gustavo Rodriguez is an experienced amateur birdwatcher based in Caracas.
Robin Restall is the senior author and sole illustrator of the acclaimed Birds of Northern South America (Helm, 2006), and was also author of Munias and Mannikins (Pica Press, 1996). He has provided all of the illustrations for this new field guide.
I’ve never visited Venezuela but have been a stone’s throw away in Trinidad, which shares many of its birds so I can judge the illustrations and text by taking a good look at the one’s referring to species I have experience of. By this method, I can say that the text is surprising full given the small space each bird species gets. Its really tight succinct prose does what a good field guide should… it adds to the illustration to help you with the identification of the bird in the field and to prepare for your day’s birding.
Again, given the limited space the maps are useful enough too.
As for the illustrations, that’s a bit harder to judge. With some larger species the illustrations are proportionately tiny but the ID features are there. No matter how small a picture you are given some birds, like the Scarlet Ibis are pretty hard to get wrong. However, and I don’t know if this grounds to the artist or the printer but some colours are definitely muted and overall I found the illustrations pale. For example, I cannot think of a more colourful bird than the Purple Honeycreeper, even the female which is green is almost shockingly vivid. The male is like a technicolour cartoon on acid! Having seen Green Jay in Texas I am left wondering if they really are brighter than their Venezuelan cousins as they are most certainly brighter than the illustration here. The text describes their backs as mostly ‘olive’ so I guess they are different as this is not the green I recall. On the other hand Emerald Toucanets are, well, emerald and the ones here are far too pale. Having seen them in Panama in the forest shade and bright sunlight they were most certainly not as washed out as the picture here shows.
Having said this I am sure Venezuelan and travelling birders alike will be pleased to have this relatively portable book. I have arthritic hands but even the young and fit will find this quite a weighty tome to balance on one hand whilst quizzing a bird through their optics. With the sixth largest avifaunal numbers in the world the book is inevitably weighty. Maybe it’s time to split passerines and non-passerines and go for a book in each pocket!