391 pages, 1100+ colour photos, colour distribution maps1 customer review
Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.
"Birds of Australia is an excellent book. The text is comprehensive, the content is effectively organized and researched, and the scholarship is sound. The photographic plates are of a very high quality."
– Peter S. Lansley, senior ecologist, Brett Lane & Associates
"If you prefer a photographic format as your field guide over an illustrated one, then this is the book you should choose for Australia, containing superb photographs of all 714 resident and regularly occurring migrant birds. The birds are shown in over 1 100 good colour photographs, typically with 5-6 photos per page.
The one drawback I always find with photographic guides is the range of images and plumages can be restrictive, especially when showing particular features of birds which can help in their identification. The majority of the birds are shown with only one photo, though this book does try to account for this for the species where the plumage varies between genders or regional variation, and a second photo shows the female or immature birds and different subspecies too.
As in a typical illustrated field guide, the text and range maps are across from the respective bird. The text is a standard one-paragraph outline that focuses primarily on identification. Although the descriptions do a good job at describing the bird, they do not compare or mention similar species. For species such as honeyeaters where many species look very similar, these pointers can be very useful. A few lines of the text are also given on voice, habitat, and status.
The range of each bird is shown on the same all-Australia map, which is a bit generic and does not contain the boundaries of the various states, which for the visiting birder can help them work out exactly where the range extends to."
- Neil Calbrade, BTO book reviews
AUSTRALIAN CLIMATE AND RAINFALL 11
HABITATS OF AUSTRALIA 12
Marine and Coastal Habitats 12
Tropical Habitats 17
Temperate Habitats 25
Arid and Semi-arid Habitats 31
Man-made Habitats 36
SPECIES ACCOUNTS 39
Ducks, Geese, and Swans 48
Pigeons and Doves 60
Storm Petrels 76
Petrels and Shearwaters 84
Herons and Bitterns 110
Ibises and Spoonbills 116
Kites, Hawks, and Eagles 118
Rails, Crakes, and Coots 130
Stilts and Avocets 138
Sandpipers and Snipes 148
Gulls and Terns 170
Barn Owls 210
Australasian Treecreepers 222
Australasian Wrens 228
Australasian Warblers 244
Australasian Babblers 298
Quail-thrushes and Whipbirds 302
Whistlers and Allies 310
Figbird and Orioles 318
Butcherbirds and Currawongs 324
Australian Mudnesters 338
Australasian Robins 342
Pipit and Wagtail 352
Reed Warbler 354
Swallows and Martins 358
Estrildid Finches 362
Old World Sparrows 370
PHOTO CREDITS 380
INDEX OF SPECIES 381
I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel extensively around Australia and over the years I have collected every field guide to the continent that has been produced. Mostly these have contained paintings, and if I have the space in my backpack I choose The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Harper Collins) by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight. At 624 pages it is quite a tome, but it contains everything you need. First published in 1980, it is now in its ninth edition! However, if I need to keep my pack light I choose The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds (New Holland) by Peter, Pat and Raoul Slater. This has appeared in various formats since the 1970s, but the latest version came out in 2010 and is considerably lighter at just 343 pages.
The only photo field guide to have been published was Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia (New Holland) by Jim Flegg. That appeared way back in 1994, and was updated several times until 2004. While it was well designed, it has now fallen behind with the many taxonomic changes made by Australian ornithologists.
So now we have Birds of Australia: A Photographic Guide. This follows the latest IOC taxonomy and so you are looking at 714 species. Excluded from the book are those birds only found in remote Australian dependencies such as Lord Howe and Norfolk Island that only the most intrepid travelers will see, and also excluded are rare vagrants that even Australian birders don’t see! So you get what you really need.
I like the way that the photographs are mainly placed on the right, but additional images are positioned on the left – and they are mostly a good size. The text is brief – giving you the main identification features and a quick line to describe the preferred habitat. A small distribution map is included for each species – and sadly these fall below my expectation. With a black country outline the gray tone of the wash showing distribution really struggles to reveal itself for those species that hug the coast or are of very limited range. Given that the pages are in full colour these could easily have been printed with a brighter (and more useful) colour. However the book pleases me in every other respect.
The color photos are terrific, and to have 1100 of them in a relatively lightweight book is a triumph. These are primarily by Geoff Jones, but Iain Campbell has contributed many, as have about 20 others. To my eye a photo is worth two paintings as it shows the bird the way it really is, and not just through the artist’s eye. However in a few cases you just can’t get the bird to pose in a helpful way – so having a field guide with paintings as a back-up is always a good idea. With some species you really do need them all facing the same way for comparison!
In some cases subspecies are illustrated, and given that the book is right up to date with taxonomy, in some cases I was looking at a photo of a recently-split species for the first time. I particularly like the grasswren images – and indeed that is where most of the recent splits have been! A lot of field guides tend to skate over seabirds but these are prominently included – which is important because Australia has some of the best pelagic birding opportunities in the world!
Apart from the species texts there are brief chapters covering the main habitats – marine, coastal, tropical, temperate, arid, semi-arid and man-made.
This is a very useful addition to the range of books on offer, and given that it includes all of the recently-split species you really need it if you are visiting Australia.
Iain Campbell, a native of Australia, is builder of the Tandayapa Bird Lodge in Ecuador and cofounder of Tropical Birding, which leads bird and wildlife tours around the world. Sam Woods and Nick Leseberg are nature guides for Tropical Birding. Campbell and Woods are the authors of Wildlife of Australia.