The Iberian Peninsula is one of Europe's most ornithologically varied regions offering a host of regional specialities. It includes famous birding hotspots such as the Coto Donaña wetlands, mountainous areas such as the Picos de Europa and the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean cork and holm oak forests of the southwest, the migration crossroads of the Strait of Gibraltar and the steppe-like plains of Extremadura and Alentejo. Large numbers of birders from around Europe visit the region to see this wealth of winged wildlife, but to date there has been no comprehensive regional avifauna in English.
The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula is a national avifauna that fills this gap in the ornithological literature. Full-colour throughout, The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula begins with authoritative introductory chapters covering subjects such as geography, climate, habitats, the history of Iberian ornithology and the composition of the avifauna. The species accounts then cover every species recorded in mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra, including the many vagrants. For each species there is detailed treatment of distribution – with maps of breeding and wintering ranges – habitat selection, population trends, historical and current status, migration and conservation.
"[...] a landmark work, occupying a publication niche that is vacant thus far, from which both professionals and amateurs can profit, and whose format and scientific quality are outstanding in the growing recent regional, subregional, and local avifaunal accounts."
– Manuel B. Morales, The Auk, Volume 132, 2015
"[...] There is no doubt that a huge amount of effort has gone into this book and while I have been critical of some inconsistencies there is also no doubt that it is a tremendous improvement on what is currently available. Perhaps some of the inconsistencies are the result of that lengthy gestation period. Despite cutting back the text and reducing the typeface size to allow about 900 words on each page, the publishers have still ended up with a book that weighs in at a hefty 1.9 kg! This is an impressive book in many ways and deserves to be on the bookshelf of every travelling birder in Europe."
– Keith Betton, British Birds 108(9), September 2015
"[...] books of this nature are a labour of love and a heavy burden, requiring years to compile and edit, and the two authors deserve to be warmly congratulated for producing the first modern work of this sort. It will serve as a fundamental resource for those wishing to undertake research into both old and modern records, as well as laying down the gauntlet for a truly encyclopaedic work on the peninsula’s birdlife, so eagerly wanted by the region’s ornithologists and birdwatchers."
– John L. Muddeman, Ibis Volume 157(4), September 2015
"As the title suggests this volume is dedicated to Iberian avifauna up to 2013. It appears more than a decade after Aves Ibericas vol I and II, its predecessor, which was published only in Spanish. This is the first time such a comprehensive publication, covering the whole of Iberia, has been written in English. [...] This is an overdue update of the previous publication of its kind. It will be of interest to any regular visitor to sunny Iberia, or for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge about the birds in Spain and Portugal. However, don't expect beautiful photographs – it is more a source of detailed information produced by two of Spain's most respected birders.
– Diana De Palacio, BTO News, issue 314
1. Preface 4
2. Acknowledgments 5
3. A brief history of Iberian avifaunal studies 6
4. Iberia: geography and climate 9
The Iberian Peninsula and its islands 9
The geography of mainland Iberia 10
The Balearic Islands 12
Other peninsular archipelagos 12
The Bioclimatic Zones. Temperature and Precipitation 13
Climate change 15
5. Habitats 16
Mediterranean evergreen plant communities 16
Eurosiberian plant communities 17
Other natural habitats 18
Man-made habitats 22
6. The Iberian avifauna 25
Breeding species 25
Breeding birds of the Iberian climatic regions 27
Recent changes in the Iberian breeding avifauna 27
Wintering species 32
Migrants and migration 34
Migrant species 34
Seabird movements 36
Trans-Pyrenean movements 38
Landbird migration at the Strait of Gibraltar 38
7. Introduction to the species accounts 40
8.The Systematic List 51
9. Category D species 608
1. Category E1 species 614
2. Breeding species of conservation concern 615
3. Scientific names of animals and plants mentioned in the text 617
4. List of Spanish regional bird reports 618
5. List of Spanish and Portuguese rarity reports 620
Despite the popularity of Spain as a holiday destination, travelling birders have struggled to find a book that accurately describes the status of birds in that country. Although there are various site and regional guides, while Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar (1992) covered Gibraltar and the Spanish province of Andalucia, the two volumes of Aves Ibéricas (1996–99) have provided the most useful source for detail of bird distributions throughout the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. However, that was published in Spanish and before much of the recent groundbreaking atlas work had been undertaken. Portugal has been better served: Aves de Portugal: Ornitologia do Território Continental, published in Portuguese in 2010, is an excellent account of that country’s avifauna.
But now, after a long gestation period, we have this impressive new tome, in English, by Ernest Garcia (well-known for his expertise on Gibraltar and Andalucia) and Eduardo de Juana, whose field guide Guía de las Aves de Espaňa (Lynx Edicions, 2005) has made him a household name in Spain. The book covers mainland Spain and Portugal, plus the Balearic Islands, Berlengas archipelago, Andorra and Gibraltar, but not the more distant Atlantic island groups of the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries.
The introductory chapters provide a very good overview of the region and what it has to offer both birds and birdwatchers. The geography, climates and habitats are all described – and many are illustrated in the 64 excellent colour photographs that are grouped together. The species accounts are thorough, some up to 2,000 words in length, although they could have benefited from a more obvious layout and use of subheadings. In addition, the authors have been rather inconsistent in their descriptions of status. For example, the Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus ‘occurs sporadically’ but the text reveals that there are only 19 records of 56 birds from 1939 to 2007; yet White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons, with 142 records, is ‘a rare visitor’, while Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis, with 132 records, is ‘a scarce visitor’. For some rarer visitors, maps show the number of records per region, which is a useful idea, while for other species, such as Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, the data are tabulated. There are also 216 bar charts showing seasonal or monthly occurrences, but for many the data are presented only up to 2010.
Given that, to some degree, we have lacked detailed information on the status of Iberia’s birds, it is good that population estimates are given for many species, and based on several recent sources, although these are sometimes conflicting (and the estimate of 1.1 million Black-eared Wheatears Oenanthe hispanica in Andorra is clearly an error, being also the number found in Portugal). Inexplicably, estimates are not provided for non-passerines, although figures are available from the recent atlases.
For most species, maps show distributions and population density using a varying grey scale, and these work well. However, again there is a lack of consistency in the way the maps have been used. For some resident species one map is provided, for others two maps differentiate between summer and winter distributions, while for some species there are no maps at all. This is perhaps understandable for widespread common species, but why no map for Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus – which is expanding its range and is present in all months in differing areas? Similarly, why no summer map for Great White Egret Ardea alba? And why show Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus distribution for summer but not winter? There are similar cases throughout the book where maps have not been included where they would have added value. Perhaps they were excluded to save space?
The appendices cover a variety of aspects such as escaped species and conservation status, and for those wanting to delve further around 2,000 references are included.
There is no doubt that a huge amount of effort has gone into this book and while I have been critical of some inconsistencies there is also no doubt that it is a tremendous improvement on what is currently available. Perhaps some of the inconsistencies are the result of that lengthy gestation period. Despite cutting back the text and reducing the typeface size to allow about 900 words on each page, the publishers have still ended up with a book that weighs in at a hefty 1.9 kg! This is an impressive book in many ways and deserves to be on the bookshelf of every travelling birder in Europe.
Eduardo de Juana is one of Spain's best-known ornithologists. He is currently President of the SEO.
Ernest Garcia is an author and editor from Gibraltar. Co-founder of the Gibraltar Natural History Society and current editor of the Gibraltar Bird Report, his previous books for Helm include the two Where to Watch guides to Spain. Ernest has been a member of the Sociedad Española de Ornitología since the early 1970s, and he is a former member of the Iberian Peninsula rarities committee.