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About this book
About this book
Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is the first comprehensive pocket-sized photographic field guide to every bird species in Europe – this includes winter visitors and common migrants but also all rarities to the region, even if they have been recorded only once. The guide also covers hypothetical species – those that have a good chance of being recorded due to such factors as range expansion and changing weather patterns.
The book's 2,200 stunning color photographs mean that every species is pictured, making field identification quick and easy. Succinct text covers key identification features, voice, habitat, and distribution, and distribution maps are provided for regular breeding species. Particular attention and details are given to help differentiate similar-looking species.
Lavishly illustrated, up-to-date, and wide-ranging, Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is an essential field guide for every naturalist and birder.
Customer Reviews (1)
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
6 Dec 2018
Written for Paperback
This is a surprisingly under-discussed book in the British birding scene given that it is probably the best photographic field guide available to the birds of Europe. In fact, it may well be the only photographic field guide in English to cover every bird recorded in Europe. It is also for a number of reasons, one of the best field guides to Europe even in comparison with the traditional guides which use illustrations. Its judicious use of images and clean style will, I think, further accelerate the shift towards using photography in field guides. I wonder if it would have worked better in the British market if the cover had been titled as a ‘Complete Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe’ and emphasising it covers every species recorded in Europe. Its focus on comprehensive coverage of every species recorded in Europe is a huge plus, a point obscured in the reference to the Middle East and North Africa in the title. With this book, you don’t need a guide that covers the regularly recorded species plus one or more books that cover the rarities that may have been recorded just once or a few times.
An overriding theme with this guide is that it is clean and simple and points you immediately to the key identification characteristics of a bird. It is probably the ‘cleanest’ guide to European birds. It is also the easiest on the eye of the field guides I have seen with this level of expertise permitting advanced identification.
Unlike many other field guides, it is beautifully simple without an intimidating wall of text. It is what I describe as a ‘visual read’. Take for example the page that distinguishes Arctic Tern from Common Tern. With many field guides, you have to read a chunk of text and process in your mind what the key field characters are. In this book, you read the key characters almost entirely visually as the ‘pointer lines’ next to the images (a feature popularised many years ago by Roger Tory Peterson) takes your eye to the features you need to look at. In a matter of seconds, you can absorb the key characters. Although I love my large collection of field guides with illustrations, I get the impression that beginners find photographic images easier to digest as they somehow seem more real. Even for experienced birders, I think this highly visual approach with bite-sized captioned text is very effective. The additional text is sufficient to understand the distribution and frequency of occurrence. But the text is not so heavy as to make the book feel daunting. The way the birds have been shown with the backgrounds faded out with a lot of white space also makes the book easy on the eye. Another thing that helps is that the images are judiciously chosen to illustrate key characters that really do matter. There are a lot of images which for some species, but one never feels overwhelmed.
This seeming lightness on the eye and mind hides behind it great expertise. A huge amount of effort would have gone into sourcing the right images. Although there are now a number of online image databases that make the task easier, finding the right images still remains a project in its own right. I should know. For John Beaufoy Publishing I authored and lead photographed a field guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. It was a less ambitious project than this and for many species, I used just a single image to illustrate a bird and used the succinct text to highlight the identification images. Even with the search for images considerably narrowed down, I still spent several months sourcing images from 58 photographers from 19 countries. In this book, almost everywhere, the authors have sourced the right suite of identification images for the birds. However, this is not to say there is no room for improvement. Coal Tit (not a rare bird) lacks an image which shows the white stripe on the nape. There is also a case for including more images showing the progress of plumage for the 3 year and 4 year gulls.
Another factor that may mask the level of effort behind this is the succinct text. Having written a field guide to birds myself, I know only too well that several hours spent poring over advanced papers may only result in one carefully constructed sentence in an identification oriented guide. That appears very much the case with this book as it is apparent that many years of experience of advanced birding coupled with a good review of the identification literature has resulted in this to-the-point text.
The book is 467 pages long with a slim introductory section (pages 6 – 11) which includes a page on plumage topography. Given the expertise underlying the book, I was surprised that there was not a fuller discussion on moult and the plumage variations of birds such as gulls which may take up to three or four years to reach full adult plumage. Most species are covered with two species per page allowing enough plumage variations to be shown at a comfortable size. Some of the ‘difficult’ birds such as some birds of prey receive a full page. Nearctic vagrant passerines are three or more to a page. There is an index but the usual end pages such as a bibliography are missing. I don’t know if this was included in the original French edition published in 2015.
I have been field testing this book and I have noticed a positive reaction from others. Some people have photographed the cover to order their own copy. On a Sunday in November, I gave the book a little test at the London Wetland Centre where at the Headley Hide I was treated to seeing a female Sparrowhawk catching a Common Snipe and bringing it back and perching close enough to be photographed well. I looked up Sparrowhawk to see if the book provided clear pointers to determine the sex of the bird. It did. I also then looked up Robin as I had taken some amazing close photographs of a habituated bird. It had what one would expect, but also interestingly, it carried an image of the ‘Canary Islands’ Robin. Something I would have missed with a book whose focus was purely on Britain.
The choice of a field guide is a subjective choice with a few, very good books on the market. The clean design of this book, its focus on identification of difficult species, its ease of use and coverage of every bird recorded in Europe (up to 2017) makes this a strong contender for anyone looking for a field guide for use in Britain and Europe.
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Frédéric Jiguet is one of France's leading ornithologists and a conservation biologist at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He is director of the Centre de Recherches sur la Biologie des Populations d'Oiseaux (CRBPO), and serves on the editorial board of France's premier bird-study journal, Ornithos.
Aurélien Audevard has been studying birds for much of his life and has conducted several high-profile conservation studies for the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (LPO PACA). His photographs have appeared in many of Europe's leading birding magazines, including Ornithos, L'Oiseaux, Birding World, and Dutch Birding.
Field / Identification Guide
447 pages, 2200 colour photos, colour distribution maps
"[...] Overall, the photographs selected seem to be carefully chosen, and are both of very high quality and well reproduced, but there are occasions when individuals of the same species appear quite different in coloration, either because of the ambient light when the image was taken or due to reproduction effects. [...] These quibbles aside, this is a very fine collection of images of almost every species recorded in Europe and should allow most birds seen to be correctly identified. Europe and adjacent areas are of course well covered by bird identification guides, but the Collins Bird Guide remains unsurpassed in terms of quality and accuracy. This new volume complements the Collins Bird Guide well and is very reasonably priced."
– Chris Kehoe, British Birds, Volume 110, November 2017
"This is an excellent photographic field guide. Considering its portable size, the coverage is immense. Practical, handy, and attractive, it will have a wide appeal."
– Nigel Redman, author of Birds of the Horn of Africa
"The overall look and aesthetic feel of this book is attractive, and its images are well chosen. It will fill a niche in the European birding market and beyond."
– Julian Hough, founding editor of the Naturescape Images blog