Please note that this is a reprint of the 1999 edition without new information.
A total of 120 species of crows, jays and their allies exist in the world today. Many are exceedingly beautiful in colour, grace and form, whereas others are black and somewhat sinister in appearance. In no other group of perching birds has evolution produced such a degree of variation, from the tiny Hume's ground-jay of the steppe-highlands of Tibet to the huge thick-billed raven of the mountains of Ethiopia. Some have had a long association with people and appear in tales of mythology and superstition, while others have been regarded as agricultural pests. The great majority, however, remain largely unknown, their only contact with humanity being the destruction of their specialised habitats. As a consequence, more than 20 species are now regarded as internationally endangered, some of which are very poorly known.
The 30 superb colour plates by Hilary Burn in this book depict them all; each plate is accompanied by an informative caption page summarising the criteria required to identify the species, alongside colour world distribution maps. Some of these birds, bearing such evocative names as the Banggai crow, Mesopotamian crow and Flores crow, have never been illustrated before.
The authoritative text by Steve Madge treats each species in depth, summarising identification techniques and concisely reviewing all aspects of corvid behaviour, distribution, population and taxonomy. The author has had first-hand experience of most of the species during his travels throughout the world, travels in which he gradually became fascinated by this very special, but somewhat ignored, group of birds.
Crows and Jays is a combination of scientifically accurate information and an identification guide, planned to give anyone, whether a birdwatcher or biologist, a greater understanding of the lives of these beautiful, yet very complex, group of birds. It will surely be a standard work of reference for many years to come.
Steve Madge became interested in birds as a child, the honking croaks of ravens along the rugged coast of his native Cornwall being among his earliest memories. He still lives in Cornwall, but spends part of the year overseas leading birdwatching tours for Birdquest, the company he helped to form. He is a former member of the British Birds Rarities Committee, and has contributed many articles on birds to journals in various parts of the world. His previous book with Hilary Burn, Wildfowl, was a worthy winner of British Birds' 'Bird Book of the Year" award; he is also a co-author of two other Helm Identification Guides, Handbook of Bird Identification and Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse.