The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide
The isthmus of Panama, where North and South America meet, hosts more bird species than all of North America. More accessible than ever to birdwatchers and other ecotourists, the country has become a premier neotropical birding and nature tourism destination in recent years. The Birds of Panama will be an essential tool for the new generation of birders traveling in search of Panama's spectacular avifauna. This user-friendly, portable, and affordable identification guide features: * large color illustrations of more than 900 species. * the first range maps published to show the distribution of Panama's birds. * concise text that describes field marks for identification, as well as habitat, behavior, and vocalizations. * range maps and species accounts face illustration pages for quick, easy reference. * the inclusion of North American migrants and seabirds, as well as female and juvenile plumage variations. * an up-to-date species list for the country that reflects recent additions, taxonomic splits, and other changes in classification. Panama's unique geography, small size, and varied habitats make it possible to see a vast diversity of birds within a short time. Its western and central areas harbor representatives of species found in Central America; species characteristic of South America may be found in the east. In the winter, birds from northern climes are commonly found in Panama as migrants. This is the one field guide the novice or experienced birder needs to identify birds in the field in Panama's diverse habitats.
- David Sibley
"A much-needed guide to one of the richest and most interesting avifauna in the New World. I can't wait to get back to Panama with it in my pack."
- Paul R Erlich
The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide
by Keith Betton in the United Kingdom
A recent survey of UK birders showed that of those who take regular overseas trips, 22% had been to Costa Rica but only 6% had visited Panama. This is also reflected in the number of holidays offered by bird tour operators. Panama really has a lot to offer, and while it is not quite as safe as Costa Rica it has a fairly good road system and air access. At the other extreme, a trip to the remote Darien region is a must as it puts you in the middle of an area with no roads and very few villages. My visit there remains one of my very best birding memories--even though I came back with Leishmaniasis! A three week trip can bring you a haul of over 500 species and importantly there are 107 regional endemics on offer (although mostly shared with Costa Rica or Colombia).
Since 1989 the only dedicated field guide for the area has been "A Guide to the Birds of Panama" by Robert Ridgely and John Gwynne. In common with so many books from that period, it contained a wealth of information but no maps, and the plates were all grouped together in a rather crowded format with sixteen species on each page. Also there were relatively few flight illustrations. It served me well on my trip, but for use in the field this new guide moves us much further forward.
George Angehr created the text having also written the "Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Panama" and "A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama". Each species is described with bold type emphasising the key points. Brief notes are also given on distribution and calls. The distribution maps are clear, with colours to indicate seasonal occurrence, and where the range is small the scale is enlarged to give more detail.
The book generally uses the AOU as its authority for species limits, scientific and English names, and the sequence of families and species. However differences are the recognition of several non-AOU splits: Galapagos Shearwater (from Audubon's Shearwater), Brown-backed Dove (from Grey-headed Dove), Azuero Parakeet (from Painted Parakeet), Escudo Hummingbird (from Rufous-tailed Hummingbird), Blue-throated Toucanet (from Emerald Toucanet), Coiba Spinetail (from Rusty-backed Spinetail), and Canebrake Wren (from Plain Wren).
Over 950 species are shown with text and a colour map on the left page and a named illustration on the right page--and importantly there are only 4-6 species per spread. About 30 extreme vagrants are not illustrated. The majority of the paintings by Robert Dean are taken directly from his previous work Birds of Costa Rica (written by Richard Garrigues in 2007), but illustrations of around 150 species have been created solely for this book. His work in the Costa Rica guide suffered from rather faint colour printing, but that is not a problem this time. Male and female plumages are shown where it matters and in a small number of non-passerines there are immature plumages too. However only a few birds are shown in flight, and I was left wanting more images of many of the raptors and half of the nightjars.
This guide is actually not much smaller than that created by Ridgely and Gwynne and I recommend having both with you for the wealth of information in the latter. Being a softback it will surely suffer from wear and tear in the field, but it offers a much better solution for rapid use, putting all the essential information in the same place.
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