Joseph Forshaw's Parrots of the World has, for the past 25 years, been the standard work on this fascinating group of birds. That is up until now. This new publication from Pica Press, as well as being a substantially less weighty tome, is a comprehensive identification handbook for use by birders, fieldworkers, customs officer and others involved in parrot identification in the wild, captivity or trade. The first 37 pages introduce the layout of the book and briefly review the taxonomy and natural history of the group, their conservation status and threats. This last section makes for rather sobering reading given that the parrot family possesses the largest number of threatened species of any bird family, with 20% of all parrot species under threat due to habitat loss and trapping of birds for the wild bird trade. There follows 88 colour plates illustrating the 352 species recognised in the book and any distinct races. The quality of the plates is excellent and Dan Powell's distinctive style stands out pleasingly from the other four illustrators. Brief captions are given on the opposite page to the plates but the most detailed information is given in the more lengthy species accounts section. The species accounts occupy over 330 pages of the book and covers thoroughly the identification, distribution and status, ecology, description, sex/age, measurements and geographical variation of each species. There is also a distribution map for each species. Inevitably with a work of this magnitude, a few errors have slipped through. For example, the authors state that Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis canus is still present in Seychelles whereas the last reliable record of the species in the Seychelles was in 1977. Furthermore, the idea that the Seychelles Black Parrot Coracopsis nigra barklyi is an introduction from the Comores has long since been dismissed as idle speculation. These minor comments aside, this book is an impressive acheivement and a must for all those interested in parrots, their identification and conservation.
Parrots. A Guide to the Parrots of the World
Tony Juniper and Mike Parr. Illustrated by Kim Franklin, Robin Restall, Dan Powell, David Johnston and Carl D'Silva. 1998. 584 pp, 88 colour plates and many distribution maps. Pica Press, The Banks, Mountfield, Nr. Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5JY. UK£35.00.