Working for birds in Africa

A Guide to the Nests and Eggs of Southern African Birds

Fri, 21/12/2012 - 13:56 -- abc_admin
Warwick Tarboton, 2001. 432 pp, 146 full page colour plates. Cape Town: Struik Publishers (Pty) Ltd. UK£20.
pp 161-162

Those interested in breeding biology will have been disappointed that the six volumes to date of The Birds of Africa did not include colour plates of eggs. This excellent book fills this gap for southern Africa, namely the region south of the Zambezi and Kunene Rivers, and the colour plates include photographs at actual size of the eggs of 686 species, with variations shown for many. There are also photographs of the nests of 390 species, mostly containing eggs, with some showing nestlings and adults. The quality of the photographs and colour production is generally excellent throughout.

Introductory chapters deal with types of nests, shape and colour of eggs, the effects of egg-collecting, finding nests, useful equipment, and methods of recording nests.

The species accounts are in standard format: habitat, breeding system (solitary, colonial, widely spaced etc), nest site, nest, nest-building, laying months and number of broods, clutch size, eggs, incubation periods and role of the sexes; nestlings are not described, but each account includes the fledging period and the role of the sexes in tending / food provisioning. A small breeding distribution map is included with the text for each species.

The accounts are concise, well written, and thorough, where the information is known. Understandably there are many gaps, particularly for lesser known species, but for the vast majority full, detailed summaries of basic breeding biology are included.

This book provides for southern Africa a detailed guide to the complexity and intricacy of nests and to the beauty and infinite variety of eggs. It contains a wealth of information and represents excellent value for money. Thoroughly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in nests.

Peter Castell

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