Working for birds in Africa

Birds of Botswana. An annotated working bibliography, 1835-1995 / A Bibliography of Afrotropical Birds, 1971-1990

Fri, 12/28/2012 - 14:54 -- abc_admin
Wendy D. Borello and Remigio M. Borello. 1997. Russel Friedman Books CC, South Africa. 398 pp, 1 map. Pbk. P60 (Botwana), R75 (South Africa), £13 (UK) & $20 (rest of the world). / Compiled by R. J. Dowsett, C. H. Fry and F. Dowsett-Lemaire. 1997. Tauraco Research Report No. 7. 338 pp. Pbk. Available from Aves, Maison de l'Environnement, Rue de la Régence 36, B-4000 Liège, Belgium. UK£30, US$75, FF200 or BEF1000 (incl. p&p). Payments by cheque or bank draft to "Tauraco Press".
pages 66 - 67

These two works, the former the culmination of ten years self-funded research, are of enormous credit to their compilers, providing, as they do, comprehensive and invaluable resources for bibliophiles, fieldworkers, researchers and students working with African birds. The former work seeks to encourage an interest in the ornithology of Botswana, assist in the conservation of the country's rich natural heritage and to draw attention to areas in which further ornithological research would be particularly useful. In all these respects it succeeds. The introduction outlines the authors' meticulous approach to their self-set task, and also provides an excellent summary of the scope and content of this work. Newsletter-type publications, popular magazines and the literature concerning falconry, bird husbandry and aviculture have not been trawled, although they may have provided additional entries. The bibliography is divided into four sections: 1) the introduction and user information, and an overview of the development of ornithology in Botwana, presented in detailed tabular form and complete with references and sources (27 pages); 2) the main annotated bibliography, presented alphabetically and, because of the potential importance of pre-colonial and colonial era literature to the ornithology of a country such as Botswana, which is still in its relative infancy, including a separate section devoted to historical and other works, as well as a selected list of 'fundamental works and authoritative ornithological literature' (318 pages); 3) indices, cross-referenced to each entry's sequential master citation number, of geographic location, species, subject and author (31 pages); and 4) appendices listing a glossary of subject keywords, additional species keywords and a gazetteer (16 pages). A foreword, by M. P. S. Irwin, and the acknowledgements make-up the rest of the book. In summary then, this gives every impression of being a near-exhaustive true labour-of-love. A total of 1895 entries relating to the avifauna of present-day Botswana (but not including that territory formerly known as Bechuanaland) appear in this bibliography. The standard format for each entry is: author/s, publication date, title, journal or book reference, keywords and annotation, the latter prepared by the authors, who have occasionally drawn upon published abstracts (this being noted where relevant). For non-English language publications, a translation of the title is included. Keyword use is standardised and they have been extracted with respect to their relevance to Botswana, not necessarily to the main content of the work in question. Copies of all listed references are held on file by the authors, who are able to perform specific computer searches on request. Avian nomenclature largely follows Maclean (1993). The latest in the Tauraco Press series of research also represents a gargantuan achievement and deserves to be on the shelves of all those with an interest in African birds. It results from the computerisation of CHF's series of coded bibliographies encompassing the period 1975-86 and, with the addition of other material, covers a significant 20-year period in the development of Afrotropical and Malagasy ornithology. Updates to the present volume will depend upon its own success, but are certainly required and the compilers are thus warmly encouraged to proceed with this task. In contrast to the Botswana bibliography, the interests of completeness have made it necessary to make occasional reference to works not directly reviewed by the compilers, and translations of the titles of those published in languages other than English are given but occasionally. Users of this compendium are invited to inform the compilers of errors, but it would also be helpful if future editions drew attention to those references not actually seen. All 8,342 citations are numbered and presented alphabetically according to species and family, or one of several subjects: general & faunal works, listed according to country or geographical region, migration, ringing studies, biogeography, atlas projects, nomenclature and systematics, recording and vocalisations, birds & man, pesticides and pollution, bird pests and alien species, bird diseases and parasites, breeding studies, bird-plant interactions, eco-ethology, research techniques, anatomy & physiology, fossil birds, and bibliography & biography, some of which, by Bob Dowsett's own admission, are covered more comprehensively than others. An index to families and topics is presented. Most passerine species receive between one and five references, but some raptors and other comparatively well-studied species and families may be covered by up to a page or more of entries. Nomenclature follows the first-named compilers' own Afrotropical checklists also published by Tauraco Press (see review in Bull. ABC 2: 56-57). Each title is quoted just once, but for those references which deal with 2-3 species cross-references to the numbered item concerned are provided. Given the enormity of the task performed, it has proved impossible to provide abstracts, but even without these this work is an essential tool. Each entry follows the following format: author/s, date of publication, title and source of publication. I did notice an occasional error, eg a reference discussing ornithological observations in the Hurghada area of Egypt was incorrectly listed under references to the Arabian Peninsula. Often randomly selected references, relating to the period 1971-90, taken from the Botswana bibliography, four could not be swiftly located in the Dowsett et al volume. Nevertheless, editors and researchers will find this work, along with access to an exhaustive library, a much-needed resource.

Guy M. Kirwan

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