Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia By Miles McMullan, Thomas M Donegan and Alonso Quevedo | 250 pages with colour plates, illustrations & maps | Softcover | 2010 | ISBN 9780982761502 | NHBS Price: £21.99p


The UK distributor says: Coinciding with Colombia’s 200th anniversary as a republic, the world’s most bird-rich nation finally has a new field guide. It brings together original illustrations of all the country’s birds, including most plumage variations, many new and even undescribed species, original text and up-to-date maps. Never before have so many species been described and illustrated for a national field guide. The guide features all-new texts, maps and illustrations for all of the birds recorded in Colombia, including offshore islands. Every species is illustrated and all of the non-pelagic species are mapped.

Plates are arranged to show illustrations, maps, text, field notes and notes on endemism and threat status side by side in a single information cell. Emphasis is placed on features that will be most useful in the field.

The book is more field-friendly than most other national guides for neotropical countries. At 250 pages long and just 12.5 x 21 cm, it is the first genuinely pocket-sized comprehensive field-guide for one of the biggest neotropical avifaunas.

All profits from this book will go toward the pioneering conservation work and unrivalled network of protected areas of ProAves in Colombia.Fatbirder View

How do you create a fieldguide to the country with the world’s richest avifauna, in such a form as to mean it actually is usable in the field. The answer is that you compromise!

Pro-Aves have created a fieldguide and checklist (which incorporates a code as to which National Reserves the birds can be seen) both of which take up less room that many guides to countries with a third as many bird species. They’ve done this with clever design and stripping down data so that what you have is ONLY an ID guide not a mine of facts and figures, taxonomic information or life history and behaviour. Of course you lose out in the process but it is the ONLY way to achieve a book you can whip out when faced with an unfamiliar bird which, for most first time visitors will mean just about everything you will see.

The bare bones data consists of an illustration, size, habitat, distribution map, brief song note and sometimes an ID hint such as ‘common at forest edge’ or ‘scaling on head & neck’. It is a cut down text fitted into a small area allowing, for the most part, 8 species per page.

So, naturally, you do lose out on detail, and as we all know, detail can be key. The illustrations being so small tend to be a bit broad brush and rather lumpy looking with colour block often taking the place of feather features. This is most taxing when you have a dark bird with small light areas which can almost disappear.

I guess this is where good birding practice comes in. If I was confronted an antpitta and no live guide to help me I’d have to scribble a quick note and hope I noted down the salient ID features… but at least this book would help you on your way.

I have no doubt at all that, if I get lucky and go to Colombia that this book would go with me and be the only book taken into the field… but if I had no experienced local beside me I’d want a larger volume to consult later. Moreover, as the publisher is a conservation organization putting your hard-earned to good use, it’s a must buy for any visitor and local alike!What others say…

I would definitely recommend taking this book with you to the field in Colombia. As a quick and easy reference it will certainly allow you to identify the majority of species you encounter. There will be exceptions, and I doubt if this book alone will enable you to be confident of distinguishing some of the more difficult look-a-like birds such as some of the woodcreepers or antwrens, but even with a more comprehensive guide you may still have problems. For such species you often need to rely on vocalizations, which anyway cannot always be transcribed adequately. Overall then, I think the authors should be congratulated on producing a much-needed compact field guide at a critical juncture for Colombian birding. If you are in doubt about birding in this marvelous country, I hope this book will encourage you! – Frank Lambert, The Birder’s Library


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