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The first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World is really two works in one. It is a complete checklist whose taxonomy incorporates the most up-to-date information and an exhaustive methodology (Tobias et al. 2010) in an entirely systematic and consistent way. At the same time, it contains illustrations and distribution maps for every bird species in the world. This includes the original artwork from the HBW series, as well as hundreds of new illustrations, all in two compact volumes.
An extensive introduction, with many illustrated examples, explains the rationale and advantages of the taxonomic system adopted in the Checklist, as well as how to use the book. A modern, broad version of the Biological Species Concept (BSC) has been applied, with the aid of the scoring system to evaluate differences in morphology, vocalizations, ecology and geographical relationships published in Ibis by Tobias et al. (2010). For the non-passerines, this has resulted in relatively few lumps (21) but a much higher number of splits, 462 in total at the time of writing, compared with the taxonomy presented in the HBW series.
Two appendices cover all the species considered to have become extinct since 1500. The first gives full treatment, including text, illustration and former range map, for the extinct species known from complete specimens. The second provides information for the extinct species not known from complete specimens.
Large-format maps offer the reader assistance in interpreting the distribution sections. They provide both administrative and physical details, for greater clarity of use.
In total, Volume 1 deals with 35 orders, 105 families, 988 genera, 4372 extant species, 99 extinct species, and has 2126 bibliographical references.
"The checklist itself is bound to become a very popular choice, being backed up by the BirdLife International, and as a matter of fact, it has been adopted by the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and also by the European Commission to be used in their decision-making. The modern taxonomic approach also seemingly does have benefits when it comes to bird conservation. Further, because of the illustrations, this is the most handsome and lister-friendly checklist of them all. It is simply an amazing book and an undisputed titan of its kind."
– William Velmala, Ornis Fennica, Autumn 2015
"This book is unique. It is evolutionarily distinct, it fills its own bibliographical niche and has no competitors. And like any species that is radically different from its nearest relatives, it is original and captivating. I am not perhaps a typical checklist user, since I do not maintain a life list and do not feel particularly compelled to keep on top of the latest taxonomic arrangements, yet I have already spent entire days browsing the contents, and have the book placed for easy reference right next to my desk so that I can consult it as I work. If I have enjoyed it so much, those who want to anticipate the next split will find the book impossible to resist."
– Christopher J. Sharpe, Neotropical Birding, Spring 2015
"[...] This publication is the fourth, major 'world bird checklist' for the non-passerines published in the last few years. The first questions therefore must be 'Do we need another checklist.''' and 'How do they compare?' The HBW / BirdLife book is certainly very different, most obyiously in that it is considerably larger and that is largely because it contains so much more. The others are all essentially just lists of species and subspecies, noted. This one includes a ful noted. This one includes a full list (obviously!), but there are also illustrations and small distribution maps for all species, as well as rather more details of the reasons for their taxonomic decisions. [...] Would I buy it? [...] of the four main world checklists, but it is also the most expensive (retailing at a similar price to the two volumes of Howard & Moore, whereas the IOC and Clements lists are free online). Take your choice and, if this book is it, await the passerines volume with interest."
– Peter Lack, Bulletin of the African Bird Club 22(1), March 2015
"So, 904 pages later, should you have it? Simply, yes. The book is a stunning visual collection of approximately half of the world's birds, with sufficient text to satisfy those who want to know more about any species. In time, it might be the most used bird book you will ever own – whether just looking at the pictures, planning your next birding adventure or reliving previous ones."
– David Wilson, Australian Birdlife, March 2015
"Whether or not you already own the full set of HBW, this 'HBW-lite' represents a handy, up-to-date and authoritative overview of the World's birds."
– Martin Collinson, Scottish Birds, March 2015
"Both volumes are a "must have" for ornithologists and are certainly great value for money."
– Sylvia Koch, Vögel, February 2015
"So is this book really useful? Without question it is. It is now the most current and up-to-date checklist of world birds. It has been assembled by people who have spent over twenty years evaluating and deciding the taxonomic issues related to birds. It is a complete checklist of the non-passerine species using the most up-to-date taxonomy. Having both an illustration and a range map alongside of the species entry is a real blessing. It is an essential purchase for researchers and for all those engaged in world-wide birdwatching. Even if you are not a combat lister, you still need to know which species you have seen and where."
– John Roy, Canadian Field Naturalist, 2014
"In my opinion this is, up to now, the best, clearest and most aesthetically pleasing checklist I have ever had the pleasure of studying. / [...] / This provides a brilliant overview of each genus and family, with the birds' appearance and distribution, name, status and subspecies presented for every species. Working on the HBW series has given the editors such great experience in how to produce a clear and elegant layout, that the presentation of the Illustrated Checklist is simply brilliant."
– Lennart Nilsson, Anser, December 2014
"HBW Checklist is clearly in a class of its own. Having a full checklist of all the non-passerine species and subspecies, together with illustrations and maps in one remarkable volume, simply cannot be beaten."
– Alan Knox, British Birds, November 2014
"As an overall package, this checklist cannot be recommended highly enough."
– Dominic Mitchell, Birdwatch, October 2014
"[...] To conclude, do you need this huge and not inexpensive checklist ? Well, even if you already have the HBW series, even if you are uncomfortable with the taxonomic system used or the creation of some English names, the answer simply has to be YES. This list is now a benchmark, a reference that is hard to ignored and which may (when Volume 2, the Passerines, is released in 2016) become the definitive checklist for birds. All in all, the authors, editors, designers and the publisher are to be congratulated."
– Gerard Gorman, Woodpeckers of the world blog, 17 September 2014
"[...] At one level this checklist is an index to the HBW series. Each species has a short text, covering taxonomic issues and distribution, opposite a world distribution map and paintings, mostly from HBW, that show the main plumage types.[...] The true value of this work lies, however, in the new systematic listing that it puts forward. There are many rival catalogues of the world’s birds, leaving conservation science, and listers too, in some confusion. The merging here of two of the most authoritative online, regularly updated world listings of birds is therefore hugely significant, especially as BirdLife International’s data feed directly into IUCN’s Red List of conservation priorities. The biggest problem is where to recognise that speciation has occurred. For the first time, a work of this kind has been able to use a set of criteria that include field observations, such as vocalisations and ecology, alongside the more traditional museum work: these are the Tobias criteria, published in Ibis in 2010. [...]"
– John Marchant, BTO news, September 2014
"It will surely become the new definitive taxonomy (at least until its next update). This checklist is huge in every way – a huge undertaking, a huge achievement and a huge product."
– Andy Stoddart, www.rarebirdalert.co.uk, August 2014