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About this book
About this book
The Birder's Guide to Africa presents the first comprehensive and detailed summary of bird watching in the African region, covering all mainland territories and associated islands. It gives an overview of the birding in the region in the introduction, highlighting key destinations for different kinds of travellers. This is followed by country accounts for all 68 territories that comprise the region, in which details on travel and birding are provided for each territory, including a comprehensive list of important bird taxa to be targeted on a visit. In the family accounts, 142 bird families are recorded from the region, described briefly, and illustrated with spectacular photographs. Finally, the species accounts for all 2,792 bird species detail information on ease of seeing, distribution, status, habitat, subspecies, taxonomic issues and best places to see.
Any serious world lister or keen African eco-traveller will find an abundance of relevant and interesting information.
Customer Reviews (1)
19 Jul 2019
Written for Paperback
Before I venture to any part of Africa I carry out a literature search, seeking lists of key species for the area I have chosen, and prioritising my chances of seeing endemic and near-endemic species. As a travelling birder I want to get into one place all the essential information I need. I am sure this is true of many birders the world over – although to different degrees of intensity for each person! This new book provides all this information for Africa in one place, and laid out in an easily understood format. Nowhere else can you find all this data in one place.
After some useful introductory information about African birding and suggestions on how best to use the book, the first main chapter covers 108 pages with details for the 68 territories that make up Africa, including 18 island territories. Each territory is given a rank that indicates its importance for seeing birds with Madagascar taking the top position followed by South Africa. A list of endemics is sown together with near-endemics, but also three other categories. BT indicates “Best Territory” for a species that you can see in other territories, but should see more easily here. 1/2 indicates a species than can be seen in only in two territories, and B2 is for species found best in two territories but can be found elsewhere.
The nomenclature and taxonomy used is that put forward by IOC, but potential future splits are not ignored, and the suggested names for these are shown in green. A small number of recently extinct species are shown in red. A list of the main habitats of each territory is shown, as are favoured birding areas and Endemic Birding Areas. Timing of a visit is important, and an indication of the best time to visit is given. There are also suggestions on whether there are opportunities to explore relatively new areas. A very useful sub-section gives an insight into the relative safety of each territory, with information on visas, health, climate and other attractions. I particularly liked the summary of literature sources, websites and available sound recordings.
The next chapter covers 150 pages and is a series of 338 photographic images of representatives of each of the 142 bird families recorded from Africa. These are of high quality and many cover a half or full page. These are primarily by Tasso Leventis. Each family is then described briefly.
The final chapter consists of 244 pages and is a detailed listing of all 2,792 bird species found in Africa with short summaries of around 50 words on each, indicating range and highlighting races. Taxonomic issues for each family are also discussed. Once again, any potential splits are shown in green text. For each species there is at least one suggestion of a site where it can be looked for.
Michael Mills has thought carefully about the needs of his potential readers, and not everybody is a world lister. Apart from calculating the statistics on which territory has the most endemics, he has rated each of them for the purposes of each type of visitor. If you are a budget traveller he has ranked them to reflect whether you could really afford to visit. So, for budget birders, Madagascar drops down to tenth place while South Africa and Uganda are first and second. Then there are what he describes as “balanced birders” (correctly indicating that world listers are rather unbalanced!). These are people who want safety and variety, and again South Africa is in first place, but Tanzania moves into second place. Finally, he ranks the territories for people who want to explore and seek out little-known species. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola take first and second places, followed by Liberia and Tanzania.
A set of around 250 reference books and papers is suggested, with the priority being for smaller more specific works rather than continent-wide major tomes. In addition, there is a list of about 100 useful websites where more information about sites and territories can be found.
The arrival of this book coincided with a trip to Tanzania for me, so I was able to put the country section to test. I was really impressed by the amount of information presented, and had it arrived two weeks earlier it would have saved me two days with my head stuck in other reference books! It would have shown me that Tanzania has 366 species that are of particular interest, with 39 endemics and five near-endemics. Tanzania is rated third overall out of the 66 territories assessed. There are 12 species that you can see in other territories but should see more easily here, 40 others that can be seen in only in two territories, and 32 species that are found best in Tanzania and another territory but can also be found elsewhere.
This is an essential reference for anyone who takes birding trips to Africa and needs useful information presented clearly. The amount of work that has gone into it is clearly immense and it will undoubtedly save travelling birders a lot of time searching for information.
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544 pages, colour photos, 2 colour maps
"[...] This is an essential reference for anyone who takes birding trips to Africa and needs useful information presented clearly. The amount of work that has gone into it is clearly immense and it will undoubtedly save travelling birders a lot of time searching for information."
– Keith Betton, Bulletin of the African Bird Club 25(1), March 2018
"[...] In summary, this is not a field guide and, by itself, is not sufficient for detailed planning of a trip to Africa. However, it is an inspiring and high-quality compendium of information that looks hard to beat as a celebration of the amazing birds of this fascinating continent. Highly recommended."
– Andy Musgrove, BTO book reviews
"In this new book, Michael Mills has gone for a different approach to the traditional where-to-watch guide, putting finding the birds before finding the country. This is achieved in three main sections: Country Accounts, Family Accounts and Species Accounts, taking respectively 108, 150 and 244 pages, so the clear emphasis is on the birds themselves. [...] There is a huge amount of information in this book which will be of great use to people planning birding trips to Africa, and I would not be surprised if its somewhat unusual approach does not serve as a template for guides to other parts of the world."
– Martin Woodcock, BirdGuides