Birds in Africa: An Introduction and Survey to the Birdlife of Africa
By Rainer Christian Ertel | Hardcover | 2011 | ISBN: 9783935980166

What the publisher says:

This is an English translation of the German book “Vogel in Afrika”, which covers 1,300 species breeding or migrating in Africa. There is a colour photo and a distribution map included for most species, together with a short description of the bird’s appearance, habitat, and song.

What others have said:

“…A small but completely sufficient map shows the breeding range […] And whoever travels to Africa to see mammals should take this book with them to avoid missing too many conspicuous birds…”
– Limicola

“…What otherwise is highlighted in idealized paintings appears in this photographic book along with the reality–just as you would see the birds in the countryside. This broad compilation with photos of African birds […] is impressive.”
– OrnisThe Fatbirder View

The truth is I just don’t really get it. Its not comprehensive, so one could not be sure that you have an ID. The pictures may appear as they do in life – but just to one observer, in one habitat and one condition of light so are no more or less realisitic than most drawn guides. Moreover, unlike a drawn guide the salient ID feature is not drawn to your attention. The maps are so small that is would be hard to separate some species on location and, anyway, many similar species overlap in territory. Lastly, the photographs range from brilliant to pretty poor, an inconsistency rarer in drawn guides. In almost all cases we have a full plumaged male, duller females and hard to ID juveniles aren’t even featured.

OK, so I’m not one for photo-guides but I am left wondering who this would be for… not a birder for sure, unless that birder had never visited any part of Africa and just wanted to get a flavour and maybe pick a destination based on the distribution of the birds they most like.

I guess it has its place for the eco-tourist happy to know he saw a lark without having to know what lark it was, or for a jeep full of safari tourists wanting to get an idea of the bird families they don’t get back home. Its biggest advantage is that it is not too heavy or two large to travel with you if you are expecting to visit a number of countries on the continent or if you live in some borderland between regions. Maybe it is a stepping-stone to a more detailed country fieldguide.


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