Nocturnal Birds of Southern Africa brings the largely unseen world of night birds to the reader in the pages of this photographic guide, the first to cover the full spectrum of the owls, nightjars, night herons, thick-knees, coursers, the bat hawk and many other species in detail. This full-colour hardcover book has over 300 pages and is richly illustrated with 370 photographs, most of which have not previously been published, by the author and several leading photographers.
Introductory chapters discuss nocturnal birds in general terms in the southern African context, and in the species accounts, clear, easily readable text and photographs cover all important aspects of typical adults, nests, eggs or nestlings, juveniles and the habitat of the species, including identification. Large, clear distribution maps show the global distribution of each species, and basic species facts and information can be gleaned at a glance from succinct information at the end of each chapter. A new approach to the field identification of nightjars together with a unique set of images sheds fresh light on this difficult family of nocturnal birds.
Photographic coverage of nightjar species extends to most of the described races including those of the European nightjar, a publishing first. The author, John Carlyon and Penny Meakin, who illustrated the book, were responsible for most of the photography in this highly attractive publication.
John Carlyon is a practising veterinarian who has had a lifelong interest in ornithology, with nocturnal birds being a particular passion. Many of his articles and photographs have appeared in a variety of publications over the years.
Penny Meakin, a well-known artist and illustrator, contributed extensively to field work and photography, and illustrated the book.
"This attractive book is the result of a 30-year fascination with nocturnal birds, and covers not only southern Africa's 12 owl and seven nightjar species, but also bat hawk Macheiramphus alcinus, night herons (two species), dwarf bittern Ixobrychus sturmii, thick-knees (two), coursers (two), and, more succinctly, a few partially nocturnal birds. It is thus the first to treat all nocturnal birds of the subregion in a single work. At first sight, one could be misled into thinking that this lavishly illustrated and beautiftilly produced volume of 21.5 × 26.5 cm is "just" a coffee-table book, but, although it is not a scientific treatise either, it is far more than a merely pictorial work. [...] It. The text, which is is based on published research and the author's personal experience, is accurate and informative, yet highly readable. The distribution maps are large and clear but unfortunately rather approximate, schematic and, for regions outside southern Africa, sometimes quite inaccurate. It is a great pity that the author doesn't seem to have consulted regional field guides; some glaring errors could have been easily avoided. [...] This is, however, the only negative point concerning this otherwise beautiful and interesting book, which is a pleasure to browse."
- Ron Demey, Bulletin of the African Bird Club 19(2), September 2012