Working for birds in Africa

Echassiers, Canards, Limicoles et Larides de l'Ouest Africain

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:35 -- abc_admin
Olivier Girard, illustrated by Jean Chevallier, Serge Nicolle and Olivier Girard. 2003. L'lle d'Olonne, France: Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage. 220 pp, 28 colour plates, 119 distribution maps. ISBN 2-910399-59-1. Paperback. €20.
pages 143 - 144

This is the second, enlarged edition of the booklet published in 1998, which was generally well received (see review Bull. ABC 6: 72). The primary aim of this pocket guide (12 x 19 cm) remains the same, to serve as an identification aid for West African field workers conducting waterfowl counts and who generally lack more comprehensive guides covering the sub-region, delimited by southern Mauritania and Chad in the north, and Congo-Brazzaville in the south. It illustrates and presents the main identification features of 129 species of waterbirds, now also including gulls and terns (both groups entirely lacking in the first edition), in addition to pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, ducks and waders. Rare species and vagrants have deliberately been omitted. All species are shown perched and in flight, with the key identification marks pinpointed with arrows and a succinct description facing the plate. An improvement over the first edition is that additional information on plumage, voice, behaviour, habitat, distribution and confusion species is provided for all species in the section following the plates, and not only for those that may present identification problems. This accounts for most of the 84 additional pages in this edition. The distribution maps have been corrected and updated and, although smaller than in the first edition, they are now more accurate and also more pleasing through the use of colour. The useful introductory chapter giving practical tips on how to conduct waterfowl counts, on counting techniques and means to collect and disseminate data, and on what to do with ringed birds, is basically unchanged, but the section on ringing centres has been expanded and updated, and now also includes e-mail addresses.

Both the colour plates and the text are clear and accurate. The 22 plates of the first edition have remained the same, but four have now been given a pale blue background, making white birds such as spoonbills and egrets stand out more clearly. This background works so well that it could have been profitably used for a few more plates, such as those of storks. The five new plates, of gulls and terns, all have coloured backgrounds. Quite sensibly, the main illustrations of Palearctic wader species depict individuals in non-breeding (winter) plumage, with a thumbnail picture illustrating breeding (summer) plumage. Palearctic plovers and Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, however, are only depicted in breeding plumage - an inconsistency that should be corrected. In his review of the first edition, Patrick Claffey expressed the wish to see a list of Asian and American vagrants included, as this would draw attention to their possible occurrence. The author has not fulfilled this wish - perhaps something for the third edition?

This guide, one of the very rare works on African birds written in French, is highly practical and perfectly serves its purpose. It is therefore to be hoped that it will continue to find its way to all those African field workers for whom it is intended.

Ron Demey

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