RSPB Handbook of British Birds – By Peter Holden & Tim Cleeves | Softcover | Third Edition | 2010 | £9.99 | RSPB | ISBN 9781408127353 | 320 pages | 1200 illustrations |

This is a completely revised and updated edition of the bestselling RSPB Handbook of British Birds. The guide provides a ‘biography’ of each of the 279 commonest British bird species. It covers all aspects of field identification, using illustrations from the highly acclaimed Handbook of Bird Identification to show all common plumage forms. The text also covers behaviour, breeding biology, population, status, longevity and any other interesting facts about the species concerned.

A detailed distribution map is provided for each species. New to the third edition is a rarities section, featuring 24 additional species, and six brand new comparison artwork spreads illustrating difficult to identify species – such as ducks, waders, warblers, raptors and gulls – alongside one another. The RSPB Handbook provides a complete, single source of basic information to our most familiar birds.There ius always the danger that novice birders will think they have seen a more exotic species than they really have and be confused by similar species common across Europe. If for no other reason a book that concentrates on our resident, winter visitor and breeding species makes sense, as does a colour key topping each page identifying relative commonality and a section of rarities.

For me some of the illustrations are not from the top of the top drawer such as those in Collins European guide, and this does make it a lot easier in some case to split species in the book than it actually is in the field. This also makes it less than is actually necessary to point to the defining field marks.

But I will not be churlish, there is more that is good about the book, for example, on price, coverage and weight alone it is a winner and it is also excellent on written content and layout style. Definitely a good buy.


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