The aim of this guide is to assist wildlife personnel, students and enthusiasts along the East Atlantic Flyway of the western coastline of Africa to learn more about the waterbirds of the region and identify them correctly. It was conceived as a freely available identification aid for Africans who lacked the resources to purchase a field guide. The guide focuses on birds found in coastal wetlands, covering waterbirds, as well as seabirds that might be seen from shore. In addition, other species that are associated with wetlands such as birds of prey, owls, kingfishers and wagtails are also included. Thus,all birds in waterbird monitoring schemes, especially the International Waterbird Census, are covered, including many migrants from the Palearctic.
The book contains a number of introductory sections covering topics such as taxonomy, migration, habitat types, summary of the major habitats within each of the 23 African countries along the flyway, conservation issues, monitoring and research programmes, ringing, and bird topography. These sections include many links to valuable website resources including the African Bird Club. This is followed by a useful section describing the characteristics of each of the 35 bird families covered by the guide.
The bulk of the work comprises descriptions and photographs of each species covered. The species descriptions are fairly brief, providing information on size, key identification features, differences where they exist between males, females and immatures, flight characteristics and habitat preferences. Each species is illustrated by several photographs, some of which are reproduced quite small, but complement the text and depict a variety of plumages including birds in flight where necessary.
Only time will tell how successful this guide will be in fulfilling its aims, but the following features will no doubt contribute to its success: the quality of the photographs and descriptive text; the inclusion of simple maps of the western coast of Africa to show species ranges; the fact that the guide is presented in English, French and Portuguese; and, last but not least, that it is available free of charge to institutions, field workers and students along the length of the East Atlantic Flyway in Africa, from northern Morocco to the Cape of Good Hope. With a print run of 3,000 copies, those who will benefit most from owning a copy of the guide should therefore be able to obtain one.
Thanks are clearly due to the several sponsors named in the book who funded its production, notably the Federal Environment Ministry of Germany, to the large number of photographers who provided their work free of charge, and to the authors, translators, illustrators and others, who have worked hard to bring this project to fruition