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Field Guides & Natural History  Ornithology  Birds of Africa

Birds of East Africa Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi

Field / Identification Guide
By: Terry Stevenson(Author), John Fanshawe(Author), John Gale(Illustrator), Brian Small(Illustrator)
640 pages, 289 plates with 3500+ colour illustrations; 2 b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps, 4 colour maps
Publisher: Helm
Birds of East Africa
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  • Birds of East Africa ISBN: 9781408157367 Edition: 2 Paperback Nov 2020 In stock
  • Birds of East Africa ISBN: 9781472984319 Edition: 2 Hardback Nov 2020 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 5 days
Selected version: £37.50
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About this book

This spectacular new edition of the best-selling Helm field guide of all time covers all resident, migrant and vagrant species found in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. All ,1448 species recorded in the region are illustrated with full details of all the plumages and major races likely to be encountered. Concise text describes the identification, racial variation, status, range, habitat, and voice, with fully updated range maps for each species.

This second edition covers 1,448 species, which represents around 70% of the birds that have been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent taxonomic changes include the creation of three new families: Modulatricidae, Nicatoridae, and Hyliotidae. In the first edition, the taxonomy and nomenclature were largely based on the East African list that was published in 1980 (Britton, P. L. 1980, Birds of East Africa, East Africa Natural History Society). Since the growth in birding and citizen science worldwide has seen the emergence of four major global lists: the IOC World Bird List, the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, the eBird/Clemenh Checklist of Birds of the World (in collaboration with Cornell University), and the HBW (Handbook of the Birds of the World) and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist. All of these lists are compared online by the comprehensive and regularly updated resource, Avibase. While taking close account of the first edition and the three other global lists, the authors have chosen to base the majority of this revised Birds of East Africa on the HBW/BirdLife taxonomy and nomenclature. Throughout, they have provided alternative common names, as well as explaining any scientific name in notes.

For the maps in this edition, the authors have moved from single-colour interpretations of range, to the widely used colour codes of green, yellow and blue, to provide more detailed information on the distributions of resident and migrant birds In addition, the base map outlines now include major rivers and highland areas above 2,000 m are shaded in grey.

Customer Reviews (2)

  • Great improvement in passeriformes
    By Tom 12 Dec 2020 Written for Paperback
    Am I the only one on slightly disappointed with this new edition? I fully appreciate the many new plates in the Passeriformes section, just mentioning the accuracy of e.g. the Cisticolas, Apalises, Tits and the many seed-eaters and finches, special mention for the beauty of the Batises and ALL the Flycatchers. Still, most of the songbirds’ plates are the old ones and not a single new plate in the Non-Passeriformes (several species added of course). Nothing new in the Raptor section (except for adding Red-chested Goshawk and Congo Serpent-Eagle with a strange map). So still not possible to ID a single juvenile raptor with this book. As to maps definitely an improvement! So there is a strange feeling of an old-fashioned first part and much improvement in the second part. I had a bit the same feeling with the new edition of SASOL in Southern Africa, whereas the second edition of Roberts Bird Guide (also Southern Africa) is a real modern bird guide and by very far the best for non-Passeriformes even for East Africa. Now looking even more forward to the Photographic Guide to come.
    So should you but this new edition? Yes, by far the best guide available for the region, for now
    25 of 30 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No
  • An outstanding field guide for East African birds
    By Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne 27 Dec 2022 Written for Paperback
    My first visit to East Africa was in the late 1990s. I used a copy of A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by John Williams (published by Collins). At that time, I thought it was excellent and I still have my copy of that book. On later visits to Kenya, I used the Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania by Dave Zimmerman et al. in the Helm Field Guides. This was a further improvement. On my most recent visit to Kenya, I used the Second Edition of Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe which is also published in the Helm Field Guide Series. The second edition published in 2020 is a significant update to the first edition published in 2002. The second edition covers 1,448 species in 289 colour plates compared to 1,338 species on 287 plates in the first edition. 17 Species of vagrants are covered in three pages (606-604) in the end sections.

    My overall impression is that this is a fantastic field guide with both the text and illustrations to a very high standard. On a ten-day trip covering Nairobi, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks there were hardly any birds which evaded ID. A few Little Brown Jobs evaded ID but this was no fault of the book. Any failed IDs were usually because I did not get sufficiently good views and also because I am not familiar with the calls of difficult groups such as the Cisticolas. The illustrations by John Gale and Brian Small are first-class. They are both accurate in enabling ID and also pleasingly life-like. Not all field guide illustrations in books manage to be both accurate for field identification and also manage to be aesthetically pleasing. The concise, crisp text hits the target in enabling ID. The text is identification oriented as expected but also contains information on ‘Status and Habitat’ and ‘Voice’. The latter is especially important for some species. The text is remarkably good at conveying a good portrait of the bird in terms of identification, habits and distribution. Packing so much information into a small word count is a skill in itself. This is no doubt facilitated by authors who are expert birders who have spent many hours in the field.

    The bulk of the book which are the species accounts (pages 22 – 598) follows the modern field guide format with the illustrations (right-hand side) facing the text and colour-coded distribution maps on the left. My only niggle is that I would have liked the political boundaries of the countries much more clear on the maps to help me orient myself to where I was in relation to the marked distributions. As the maps are small there is no space for locations to be marked on them to help orientate. The book broadly follows a modern phylogenetic taxonomy with a few departures to facilitate field use. The most obvious being that the Falcons (Family Falconiformes) are placed next to Hawks, vultures, buzzards and eagles (Family Accipitridae) rather than next to Parrots to show their true evolutionary relationship. Other birds in groups where the taxonomy has only recently been resolved (for example those with the words ‘warbler’ in them) may still have a traditional arrangement to help with field use. The plates are generally arranged to bring a taxonomic level together, whether this is at the level of family, sub-family, tribe or genus. Most plates have one or more headings explaining the taxonomic level. This was a feature I particularly liked. With families that are species-rich, it helps to have them broken down into smaller related groups with taxonomic notes that include pointers to help separate them in the field from other family members. It also helps to make sense of the various different taxonomic treatments in other books that precede this book. Occasionally as with the plate on the White Crowned Shrike and Helmet Shrikes, species which belong to two different families are placed together with an explanatory note that as in the past, they have been placed together to help with field ID. On the whole, a really good balance has been struck in educating the user of modern taxonomy whilst at the same time making the book easy for field use. The plates show distinct subspecies, and differences in sexes and immatures. Of course with groups such as birds of prey and gulls although a range of plumages is shown it cannot be a substitute for a more advanced family monograph.

    For anyone using this book on a visit to a single country in the book’s scope, it can at times feel like there is too much as a country-level book could lose up to a third or more of the 1,448 species covered in the book. On the other hand, it is good to see the distribution of closely related species in the East African region across multiple countries. A country like Kenya is so climatically diverse that even within the country there are huge differences in the avifauna even within its own political boundaries.

    The introductory sections contain a map with key place names, with brief chapters on Landscapes, Seasonality, Sites and Species (pages 10-15). Two pages cover bird topography. The chapter on ‘Additional Reading’ references key works, but a standard listing of references is not provided. This may be to avoid an already big book getting any bigger and is not a problem as an internet search will easily bring up the titles that have been referenced within the introductory material. The end sections include a list of the birds endemic to East Africa and maps of the important bird areas for each of the countries covered. There is a comprehensive index of common and Latin names with the very last page (page 640) having a quick index in alphabetical order to the bird groups. This complements the three detailed content pages at the front of the book where the birds are grouped by family in what largely reflects a modern phylogenetic relationship (with exceptions as mentioned earlier).

    As someone who has authored field guides to birds and mammals, I suppose I have a deeper appreciation of the amount of fieldwork and desk work a book like this entails. Every time I thumb through this book, I am in awe of the amount of work that must have gone into producing such a superb field guide.
    5 of 5 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


Between them the authors have 40 years of experience leading bird tous and conducting conservation work in the region.

Field / Identification Guide
By: Terry Stevenson(Author), John Fanshawe(Author), John Gale(Illustrator), Brian Small(Illustrator)
640 pages, 289 plates with 3500+ colour illustrations; 2 b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps, 4 colour maps
Publisher: Helm
Media reviews

"[...] This second edition of a guide initially published in 2004 is a hefty tome, hardly a surprise when it covers 1448 resident birds, migrants and vagrants. As the authors note, that total represents 70% of all the species recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. The illustrators are to be commended not only for the superb quality of the drawings, these including breeding and juvenile plumage where necessary, but for surviving the monumental task of producing them. [...] Excellent and thoroughly recommended."
– Richard Sale, Ibis

"[...] Although there are numerous field guides now available only a few African books reach the high standard that we to see. The second edition of Birds of East Africa is one of those, and will undoubtedly become the field guide of choice for most birders visiting Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda or Burundi, and will also prove useful in adjacent countries. Most birders who have already birded in East Africa will probably have a copy of the first (2002) edition. At first glance, one may think that not much has changed between editions, but very significant improvements have been made to the artwork, there are completely new maps, and of course there is an updated taxonomy. Inaccuracies in the first edition have been corrected [...] this really is an excellent guide, significantly different from the first edition and certainly invaluable on your next visit to East Africa.[...]"
– Frank Lambert, Bulletin of African Bird Club 28(1), March 2021

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