Working for birds in Africa

The Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania

Sat, 12/22/2012 - 00:19 -- abc_admin
Dale A. Zimmerman, Donald A. Turner and David J. Pearson. 1999. 576 pp, 124 colour plates, many distribution maps. Helm (A. & C. Black), London, UK.
page 79

This is a paperback field guide version of the highly acclaimed handbook written by the same authors and published under the same title in 1996. The earlier work was subject to a full review in Bull. ABC 4: 48-49. However, there are several key differences between the two that strongly justify ownership of both books. Most important is the fact that the new one is less than half the price of the old handbook and, at under 1 kg, it is also less than half the weight, making it a much more portable and practical investment.

In order to accommodate the slimmer format, the species accounts and distribution maps have been necessarily cut by about a half, and all but the most essential features have been jettisoned from an original 50-page introductory section. Yet Dale Zimmerman's high-quality plates are intact, albeit at a reduced size, and if anything the colour reproduction is truer and the figures sharper.

For any birder interested in East Africa the parent book is a must. This new portable version is also a massive advance on anything previously available, and one would normally be tempted to suggest that it will be the standard work to the region for years to come. However this would be overlooking the fact that a long-awaited field guide to the birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe is due in 2000. Since this forthcoming book covers all of the sub-region, including Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and southern Tanzania, and as sneak previews of the plates suggest a work of outstanding quality, birders without pressing needs and limited budgets may want to wait for the new title and then weigh up their options. What an extraordinary embarrassment of riches we birders now enjoy!

Mark Cocker

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