Cuckoos of the World By Johannes Erritzøe, Clive F Mann, Frederik P Brammer, Richard A Fuller, Richard Allen, Jan Wilczur, Martin Woodcock & Tim Worfolk | 544 Pages | 36 Plates | Colour Illustrations | Colour Photos | Distribution Maps | Christopher Helm | 2012 | ISBN 9780713660340
The Common Cuckoo has long been of fascination, with its breeding strategy of laying eggs surreptitiously in the nests of other birds, leaving these unwitting hosts to go through the hard work of chick-rearing at the expense of their own young, and as a harbinger of spring in its breeding areas. However, this familiar bird belongs to a well-defined and widespread family that contains cuckoos and malkohas, couas, coucals, roadrunners and others, some of which are colourful, and all of which are elegant. Many are not brood-parasites, but instead make nests and raise their own young; some are migrants like the common cuckoo, but a number are not; and as well as traditional pair-bonds there is polyandry, polygyny and group-nesting.
The book describes all 144 species of the Cuculidae in exceptional detail, with accurate range maps and superb illustrations by four world-renowned artists to show different plumages and subspecies. Despite many species being difficult to see well – often their presence is only revealed by vocalisations or photographs, many of a very high standard, of almost all species are also included, further aiding identification.
Cuckoos Of the World brings together not only personal field and museum research from the four authors, but information from a number of sources, including a comprehensive literature review. Our knowledge of these birds is far from complete, even in intensively studied species such as the common cuckoo, and much remains to be discovered. This book represents the definitive reference on the identification of cuckoos. It is hoped that it will engender a wider interest in cuckoos and be a spur to future research.
This large and sumptuous guide is the latest and lushest of the Helm guides and it doesn’t disappoint. I’m not going to bore you by re-iterating the accurate publishers description, if you have ever picked up one of these guides you will want to own it and the series. Every time I visit another country the guides come into their own, both for preparation and on my return when I get to listing what I’ve seen.
Of course this is not just a birders’ book but one for our ‘serious’ ornithological friends too as every species is treated in great depth.
Moreover, this guide has the very best distribution maps of the series and I also like the new more colourful cover. In short, what’s not to like?
Johannes Erritzøe is a Danish ornithologist with a lifelong interest in birds. After training at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, he started a taxidermy company for school materials in 1956, gradually moving on to scientific taxidermy for museums worldwide. Johannes has worked daily with birds for nearly sixty years; he has written around 70 articles and a number of books, and in 2003 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in recognition of a lifetime of ornithological research.
Clive Mann is a biologist from London, England.His interests encompass population dynamics, ecology, zoogeography, migration, evolution and systematics, the last leading to a doctoral thesis on passerine taxonomy. Long sojourns in Uganda, Kenya and Borneo resulted in numerous publications on the birds of these areas, including The Birds of Bomeo and, with RA Cheke, Sunbirds. Clive has served as Chairman of the British Ornithologists’ Club and of the Trust for Oriental Ornithology.
Frederik Brammer is a Danish biologist and ornithologist living in Brazil. His field experience has mostly been gained in the Western Palearctic and in tropical South America. Frederik’s main research interests include the distribution, taxonomy, conservation, migration and biogeography of birds, especially in the tropics.
Richard Fuller is a lecturer in biodiversity and conservation at the University of Queensland, Australia and an avid ornithologist. He has a particularly keen interest in biogeography, and in solving some ofthe challenges of conserving migratory species. Richard led the collation of distribution data for this book, with the range maps based on a database of more than 450,000 records.