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The Titles

T Ĵ AD Poyser

Cuckoos, Cowbirds and other Cheats, by N.B.Davis
Tundra Plovers, by Ingvar Byrkjedal and Des Thompson
The Golden Eagle, by Jeff Watson
The Raven, by Derek Ratcliffe
The Nuthatches, by Erik Matthysen

Academic Press

Population Limitation in Birds, by Ian Newton
Farming and Birds in Europe, by Deborah J. Pain and Michael Pienkowski (Eds)
The Behaviour, Population Ecology and Physiology of the Petrels, by John Warham
Herons and Egrets of the World, by James Hancock
Birds of the Wetlands, by James Hancock
Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World, by James A. Hancock, James A. Kushlan and M. Phillip Kahl
Encyclopaedia of Birds, by Joseph Forshaw (Ed.)

The Reviews

Cuckoos, Cowbirds and other Cheats

by N.B.Davis

ISBN = 0 85661 135 2
Price = $24.95 HBk
Published = 2000
Review written = 28/August/2000 by Bob Normand
310 pages

Back in the mid-eighties I was lucky enough to be asked to assist in a minor way with cataloguing the egg collection held in the Oology Dept of the Birmingham Natural History Museum. During my time there I was introduced to the vast collection of cuckoo predated nests which had been made by Edgar Chance, an amateur ornithologist who became well known for his brilliant field study on Cuckoos. Naturally, I had heard all about the great tradition of Edwardian egg collectors and of their often uninhibited rapacity. No doubt about it. These guys didn't mess about! I can't recall exactly how many complete cuckoo predated nests I examined, but there must have hundreds of them. It seemed like thousands! All of the nests came complete with the eggs of the predated host and represented a widely varied representation of prey species which from memory included: Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Tree Pipit, Linnet, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Reed Warbler, Dunnock etc. I remember standing in front of piles of predated nests wondering what kind of person would make a collection such as this. The answer came swiftly when I was allowed to read the museum's copies of Chance's The Cuckoo's Secret (1922) and its sequel The Truth about the Cuckoo (1940). From that time forth I tried to read every thing I could about the fascinating life of the cuckoo including The Cuckoo by Ian Wyllie (1981 Blandford Press) which details an account a six-year study of cuckoos and reed warblers based around St Ives in Cambridgeshire.

Now this most important and much awaited book by Dr Nick Davis gives a broader perspective and uniquely includes all of the brood parasites and discusses the important questions that they raise about the evolution of cheating and of the arms race between the parasites and their hosts. Why is it that many host species fail to recognise the cuckoo's counterfeit egg amongst their own clutch? Perhaps more importantly why do the hosts continue to rear what is to our eyes a monstrous alien impostor? In this strange world the answers are equally as fascinating as the questions.

This is a book that both amateur and professional ornithologists will treasure. Most of us like a good detective story and here we have plot and sub-plots to rival even the greatest masters of the genre. The book begins with an account of the folklore that surrounds the Common Cuckoo. It seems that even Aristotle was aware of the bird's dastardly deeds. After a global overview of brood parasites we are introduced to some important puzzles connected with them before being plunged into the mysterious world of the Common Cuckoo and its hosts. At this juncture in the narrative we are introduced to the early pioneers whose superb fieldwork did much to unravel the secret life of this fascinating bird. From then on and with the aid of cutting edge technology we are introduced to a whole array of brood parasites and their hosts. Many exciting questions are posed concerning the evolution of cheating and of the arms race that is waged perpetually between parasites and their hosts. What is the nature of this arms race? Can the hosts learn to recognise the subterfuge of the brood parasite and what are the ramifications for the parasite if they do? The answers to these and other questions engender a sense of wonder in the reader but, of course, many important questions still remain unanswered and the challenge of unravelling the ongoing mystery will act as a spur to ornithologists in the future.

I was very much intrigued by the section in the book devoted to cowbirds. Here, it seems, is evolution in the making. Cuckoos are descended from an ancient lineage and have existed as a group for at least 65-114 million years and have therefore had more time to evolve their specialised habits. On the other hand the five species of cowbirds are by comparison quite recent arrivals and Brown -headed Cowbirds and Shiny Cowbirds have existed as species for only a million years or so. Specialised ornithological research is now very much focused on cowbirds to see how they and their host species react to the continuing loss of their natural habitat and the effect that this may have on the interaction of different species of cowbird as they inevitably come into competition with each other. In addition to these more immediate concerns it is interesting to speculate upon the paths of evolution that will occur as host species devise even better defences against the incursions of the various species of cowbirds.

Succeeding chapters on the Vidua finches and their hosts continue the theme after which a thoroughly erudite exposition regarding the benefits of cheating on your own kind is undertaken before culminating in a detailed discussion on the origins of the evolution of cheating. I should not, perhaps, have been amazed at the number of species that successfully exploit their own kind. But then again, we humans have been deceiving our own kind since time immemorial!

To summarise, this is one of the most fascinating accounts on the evolution of ecology and ecological behaviour that it has been my pleasure to read. The book is superbly produced and many readers will delight, I'm sure, in the lovely line illustrations provided by Neil Quinn. The colour photographs detailing a selection of brood parasites, their hosts and their eggs are quite superb.

All, in all, a wonderful book and I unhesitatingly recommend it to anybody who has the slightest interest in evolutionary ornithology.

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Population Limitation in Birds

by Ian Newton

ISBN = 0 12 517366 0
Price = $29.95 HBk
Published = August 1998
Review written = 12/August/2000 by Bob Normand
597 pages

A recurring topic of conversation amongst many of my birdwatching friends concerns the often reported demise of many of our commoner breeding bird populations. So what are the causes of these dramatic declines? Are they due to a single limiting factor or perhaps a combination of elements that necessarily complicate a seemingly simple solution? This book, which should provide many of the answers, is written by one of the most brilliant ornithologists of our age and will become an indispensable aid for anyone who wishes to understand the deep, and often complex, forces that act upon the populations of wild birds. It will also provide a better understanding of the constantly fluctuating numbers of birds that occur from year to year and from locality to locality. The text treats its subject matter in a very rigorous manner resulting in a highly detailed discussion and explanation of the reasons behind the population limiting factors in wild birds.

The book begins with a preview which will provide many readers with a necessary and brief introduction to the book's major themes before going on to discuss the major headings in a more detailed manner. The main account provides a feast of examples based securely upon a host of field studies from around the world which are interpreted in the light of contemporary ecological theory. The book gives a full account about what is known and meant by: habitat and density regulation, territorial behaviour and density limitation, density- dependence, food supply, nest sites, predation, parasites and pathogens, weather, inter-specific competition, hunting and pest control, pesticides and pollutants, extinctions and much, much more.

Many would-be purchasers will be initially attracted to the book by Keith Brokie's, beautifully executed painting of a fox attacking a pheasant which adorns the book's front cover. They will be enchanted to discover that this artist continues to delight by giving a superb series of avian portraits which provides a graphic introduction to each of the book's main subject headings. On opening the book one is immediately impressed by the combination of very clear print type allied to a series of well-presented and easily understood graphs/charts which make this book a pleasure to both study and read. For those of us who have had the undeniable pleasure of both owning and reading Ian Newton's books one can only continue to wonder at the great man's undeniable scholarship. Very few scientists these days are blessed with his rare ability to analysis and synthesis large masses of often unrelated information and one can only marvel at the way he remains able to present an orderly and highly readable treatise concerning what are often very complicated issues. How I wish that all scientific authors could their present facts and figures in such a well-presented and readable manner.

I very much enjoyed reading this book. I learned so much from it and have even developed an unexpected interest in parasites and pathogens! I'm sure that it will be a great success for Academic Press and congratulate them and the author for producing such a fascinating and informative publication.

Obviously a book of this nature is primarily aimed at the academic research worker, those professionals concerned with the practical management of wild bird populations and even the dedicated amateur bird-watcher who does his bit for conservation by way of B.T.O. surveys, etc and would like to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the subject matter of their hobby.

Highly Recommended

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Tundra Plovers

by Ingvar Byrkjedal and Des Thompson

ISBN = 0 85661 109 3
Price = $27.95 HBk
Published = August 1998
Review written = 22/April/2000
422 pages
1 colour plate, 57 b/w photos, 9 other figs, 16 tables

Golden and Grey Plovers are common birds to many Northern hemisphere bird watchers. Their run--peck--run--run--stop--run--peck--run feeding technique being a distinctive feature of many a winter mudflat or shoreline expedition. I am lucky enough to have Eurasian Golden Plovers occasionally breeding within walking distance of my back door and their presence always enhances a day spent on the northern edges of Dartmoor.

For many people though the tundra plovers are winter birds only. Few of us have the opportunity of visiting the stark endless wildernesses of the north where the majority of these birds breed. For those admirers, who like myself do not have the time to study the birds themselves, this book will be the next best thing, bringing the wonder and science of these beautiful birds into your living room. It is a poorly understood truth that the joy we get out of the world around us is a reflection of what is inside us, this book will empower anyone's enjoyment of these four species.

Written by two authors with over 50 years experience studying tundra plovers between them, this book is as complete an account of their biology as the current state of our knowledge will allow. Every aspect of the ecology of the four species involved is considered in detail. The authors have been meticulous in the acknowledgement and explanation of their occasional deviance from traditionally held values. The text is well referenced with a 38 page bibliography. The addition of 14 appendices and 16 life history tables will make this book a treasure to students and researchers alike.

Chapter Headings are :- 1)The tundra plovers: an introduction; 2)Tundra plovers and their allies; 3)Taxonomy and geographical variation; 4)Plumages and moults; 5)Phylogeny and biogeography; 6)Breeding distribution, population trends and status; 7)Breeding season: breeding schedules and nesting; 8)Breeding season; social behaviour; 9)Breeding season: sex roles and parental behaviour; 10)Migration and non-breeding distributions; 11)Behaviour and ecology in the non-breeding season; 12)Diet: food and feeding; 13)Associations with other birds; 14)Conservation.
All in all a very nice book.
Highly Recommended

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The Golden Eagle

by Jeff Watson

ISBN = 0 85661 099 2
Price = $29.95 HBk
Published = February 1997
Review written = 1/May/2000
436 pages

The first thing that struck me about this book, while I was just leafing through it, before I commenced reading, was the huge number of wonderful b/w illustrations. These drawings by Keith Brockie are truly excellent, and in illustrating every aspect of the subjects life, greatly enhance the book, bringing the whole work to life. I would go so far as to say this is by far the best illustrated Poyser work I have seen.

The beauty of the illustrations remains with you as you get into the enjoyable work of reading text. Like most Poyser authors, Jeff Watson, is deeply engrossed in a love affair with his subject. This shows up time and again in the meticulous care that has gone into the book.

Though the book is about the Golden Eagle, and as the author admits, centred on his Scottish studies it does not suffer from regionalisation. The author is in fact to be commended for the efforts he has taken to include all relevant work from across the Northern Hemisphere. The Golden Eagle is one of the largest of the Aquila eagles. In this work it is pleasant to see its ecology placed in context of the ecology of the genus as a whole with much reference to the other 7 species. Thus the reader gets not only a highly detailed account of the ecology of Aquila chrysaetos but also a healthy introduction to the ecology of all the Aquila eagles in general.

Reading this book has been both highly educational and a very enjoyable experience. The addition of 6 appendices and 73 tables at the end of the work greatly enhance its value to students of avian, and particularly raptor, ecology looking for the sort of in depth material normally only found in research papers.

Chapter Headings :- 1)Introduction; 2)The Golden Eagle; 3)World Range; 4)The Scottish Highlands -- Golden Eagle Country; 5)Hunting Behaviour; 6)Food; 7)Nest sites; 8)Ranging Behaviour; 9)Nest Spacing and Density; 10)Population Estimates and Trends; 11)The Pre-breeding Season; 12)The Breeding Cycle -- Eggs and incubation; 13)The Breeding Cycle -- Nestling Period; 14)The Post-fledging Period and Independence; 15)Breeding Performance; 16)Moult; 17)Movements and Migration; 18)Mortality; 19)Threats; 20)Conservation; 21)History and Tradition; 22)Further Research.
Highly Recommended

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Farming and Birds in Europe

by Deborah J. Pain and Michael Pienkowski (Eds)

ISBN = 0 12 554280 7
Price = $65.00 HBk
Published = October 1996
Review written = 10/May/2000 by Bob Normand
436 pages

Farming is the single largest land-use in Europe, accounting for nearly one half of the total land area of the European Union! It is known that many species of farmland birds in the UK are currently undergoing dramatic declines. Is this a position that is mirrored in the countries that make up the European Union? This book sets out to investigate the Common Agricultural Policy (C.A.P.) and its implications for bird conservation.

Today, an ever-increasing portion of the European pastoral landscape is being deprived of its wildlife value by the continued policy of high intensity farming practices subsidised by C.A.P. incentives. Increasingly, though, it seems that the European Community is worried by the large annual investment that it makes in Agriculture and seeks to reduce its commitment. The routine doling out of vast amounts of agricultural subsidy is now being questioned at the highest level. Indeed, the very future of C.A.P. in its present form is being challenged and European farmers, cosseted by protectionist legislation, may one day be forced to survive in a truly competitive world.

What this book does is to demonstrate, without doubt, that when high intensity farming practices are imposed upon land that has been subject to low-intensity farming, the nature conservation value on that land rapidly declines. The authors, however, are not purely negative in their declamations and actively suggest ways to alter C.A.P. through the Agri- environment Regulation so that the needs of both birds and other wildlife can be catered for in the best way.

I liked the orderly way in which the book was set out. Nothing is left to chance. Right from the beginning we are expertly presented with clear and concise explanations of the political reasoning that has resulted in the formation of the Common Agricultural Policy and other, more local, policies and practices which have directly influenced both farming regimes and land use. Following this, is an interesting exposition of the ideas behind the use of birds as environmental indicator species. This looks at their associated declines in many of the changing farmed landscapes before pondering, at length, upon the important considerations of bird conservation in Europe.

I was especially fascinated by the case studies that detailed the relationships between selected bird species and farmed habitats or farming systems. I have visited (more than once) several of the regions described by the different authors and can, unfortunately, personally vouch for the marked loss of species diversity that has become so rapidly apparent during the successive progression of my visits. The case studies are both wide ranging, expertly written and contain much valuable information.

Being a keen birdwatcher, I was initially attracted to the chapters devoted to the Iberian Peninsula and the accounts detailing the problems encountered by raptors, due to the practice of extensive grazing; from thence to a skilful analysis of the current land use practices in the 'dehesas' - areas of traditional wooded pasture which support high numbers of endangered bird species. An account of current farming practices in the drylands (pseudo-steppes) of Spain gave great cause for concern. Here, an increased use of agro-chemicals, concentration of landholdings and the transformation from dry to irrigated crop production is wreaking havoc upon a unique landscape with its highly specialised wildlife. Some changes of land use, though, can be beneficial to birds and this is outlined in the section devoted to Rice Farming and Waterbirds where the authors demonstrate the importance of ricefields for the conservation of Mediterranean waterbirds.

Closer to home, Dick Potts gives an account of the issues concerning the decline in the population of Grey Partridges due to increased use of pesticides in cereal farming. He also reviews the (deceptively simple) conservation stratagems that have proved so successful in first halting, and then increasing, grey partridge populations in areas of intense cereal production. How we wish that all science was as good as this! Other case histories follow a similar theme. We see what happens to wet grassland bird species when their breeding habitats are: drained, fertilised and re-seeded for conversion to dairy farming, whilst at another level, we are persuaded of the vital importance of mixed farming for seed- eating birds. It's all here. Every serious threat to European bird populations has been identified and fully discussed along with well thought out policies to halt the declines of those species threatened by radical changes in land use.

I would like to congratulate both editors and their numerous contributors for producing such a masterly document. This book is set to become a landmark publication and I hope that it will be widely read, assimilated and put into practice by those at the European Commission who have responsibility for the welfare of our natural European heritage.

Highly Recommended

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The Behaviour, Population Ecology and Physiology of the Petrels

by John Warham

ISBN = 0 12 735415 8
Price = $60.00 PBk
Published = June 1996
Review written = 2nd/April/2000
613 pages

Written as an update and addition to the authors earlier work "The Petrels: their Ecology and Breeding Systems" this book works best as part of a set. For those who do not have the first volume this will be a small disappointment as it went out of print at the end of 1999. However do not let this put you off. This is still a highly worthwhile book which contains a large amount of very relevant information.

This book is about the Procellariiformes, Albatrosses, Fulmars, Petrels, Prions and Shearwaters, those birds commonly known as tubenoses. Tubenoses are an ancient and fascinating group of primarily oceanic birds. However, as most of them are prone to spending the greater portion of their lives at sea, studying them outside of the breeding season has not been easy. It is only in the last couple of decades that we have really begun to understand their ecology.

Between them the author's two books discuss everything you could want to know about the petrels. This volume is strong on biochemistry and physiology with a good section on behavioural mannerisms. It is filled with numerous tables and graphs, however comparative information is often difficult to find and my personal feeling is that the information supplied in the book could often have been better organised, and or presented. This is not a book for the casual bird watcher to read. It is a scholastic treatise designed for the serious student and or the research worker. A closer look at the chapter headings will give a clear idea of remit of the work

Chapter headings:- 1)Petrel Populations; 2)Petrels at Sea: Distribution, Dispersal and Migration; 3)Feeding and Foods; 4)Behaviour and Vocalizations: A General Introduction; 5)Behaviour of Albatrosses; 6)Behaviour and Vocalizations of Procellariidae, Hydrobatidae and Pelecanoididae; 7)Physiology and Energetics; 8)Biochemistry; 9)Locomotion; 10)Anatomical Matters; 11)Evolution and Radiation; 12)Petrels and Man. The book ends with 62 pages of references a species and subject index.

All in all a very useful book.

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Herons and Egrets of the World

A photographic Journey by James Hancock

ISBN = 0 12 322725 9
Price = $24.95 PBk
Published = September 1999
Review written = 25/March/2000
208 pages
220 colour photos

James Hancock could be described as the patron saint of Wetland birds, particularly the larger ones. He has received an OBE for his services to ornithology and has travelled the world many times to capture the beauty of these birds with his camera. Though it is sad to read that he was not allowed into certain parts of China to try and photograph the rare White-eared Night Heron

This book is a wonderful introduction to the world of herons and egrets. Each of the 47 species known to man is depicted in colour, 39 of them in a variety of colour photos showing various colour morphs and subspecies. The 8 species for which photographs are not available are illustrated by paintings.. For each species information is given on size, distribution, feeding ecology, breeding ecology and conservation status. Obviously for some species more information is available than for others. On of the sadder roles this book plays is as an indicator of just how little we often know about the rarer species.

The photos are excellent and often serve to put you in touch with each species more fully than the text, though in this book both work together well. All in all this is a wonderful little book that will grace any library shelf it rests on and will obviously be well read and cherished by those who do not own a copy of the more complete 'Heron's of the World' (1978) by the same author.
Highly Recommended

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Birds of the Wetlands

By James Hancock

ISBN = 0 12 322727 5
Price = $24.95 HBk
Published = March 1999
Review written = 20/March/2000 by Bob Normand
176 pages
194 colour photos

During 1984 my wife gave me a copy of The Herons Handbook by James Hancock and James Kushlan. This was a period when many British birdwatchers were concerned mostly with amassing a huge British list. This book, with its wonderfully evocative paintings by Robert Gillmor and Peter Hayman inspired many a birdwatcher to forgo their xenophobic ways and shake their fledgling wings in the direction of far off foreign horizons. The appearance of his latest publication is well timed. Alas, many of the world's great wetland habitats are under threat from injudicious water abstraction, drained for agrarian or building purposes. More increasingly their wild reaches and secret shorelines are being offered up to the human masses by the new high priests of the modern age, the 'Recreactionists'. And, if all this wasn't enough even wetlands, which have been apparently saved, have been discovered to have had their water source diverted or polluted. The future of such wetlands is at best uncertain.

The main thrust of the narrative is a guided tour centred around twelve of the world's great wetland sites. Here, with the aid of the author's own superb photographs in combination with a lucid and informative text he ably succeeds in giving a vivid portrayal of his numerous visits to these wonderful birdwatching areas. I liked especially the deft mix of historical anecdote and contemporary opinion concerning the current conservation status of the sites under review.

Did you know, for instance that during the late 19th century hundreds of thousands of egrets were slaughtered so that their beautiful 'aigrettes' could be sold to the fashion houses, whose insatiable desire for these graceful objects almost caused the extinction of several species of birds? This appalling trade was finally halted by the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, a band of enterprising female conservationists which was formed specifically to combat the plume trade. Interestingly, this draws a similar parallel to the beginnings of one of our own premier nature conservation organisations, the R.S.P.B. (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). In its formative years the R.S.P.B. was known as the 'Fur and Feather Club which was formed, in part, as a protest against the deprivations of the plume trade. The chapter devoted to Bharatpur is a damming indictment to man's worst excesses. In the 1800s the Maharaja of Bharatpur was inspired to create a wildfowl preserve for the sole entertainment of visiting shooters or sportsmen as they were called in those days. In one day alone, Lord Linlithgow massacred 4273 birds! Ultimately, the wanton destruction of these beautiful creatures in the name of sport angered public opinion resulting in the cessation of these senseless massacres. The last shoot was held in 1954. In 1956 Bharatpur became a bird sanctuary and the rest, as they say, is history. A clear proof, if any is needed, that 'good can arise from evil'.

Taxonomic issues raised in this book pose many interesting questions that, no doubt, will be embraced and vigorously discussed. The modern birder is well versed in taxonomic methodology and will probably be intrigued by some of the author's revelations. Not least the amazing tale of the interbreeding of Little Egrets and both colour morphs of the Reef Heron! Understandably, the ornithological establishment is somewhat reluctant to accept this radical concept and awaits the results of detailed D.N.A analysis before receiving full acceptance.

I'm sure many people will want to buy this wonderful book. The author's photographs really are superb and a delight to the eye and many will buy the book just to browse the stunning bird images. Generally speaking the text seems largely free from errors, although I did notice the odd inaccurate caption. On page 128 we are informed that Grey-tailed Tattlers travel long distances to nest in northern Europe rather than north-eastern Siberia and on page 161 it states that female Barrow's Goldeneye have red bills when in fact they are predominantly yellow.

To sum up, this book is a 'cri de coeur' by a man whose fascination with herons and their allies has led him to visit most of the world's great wetlands and he invites us to share with him his love and concern for these unique places.
Highly Recommended

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The Raven

By Derek Ratcliffe

ISBN = 0 856 61090 9
Price = $26.00 HBk
Published = February 1997
Review written = 8/March/2000
384 pages
39 b/w photos, 55 tables and figs

Another fine book from the impressive Posyer impression. This book deals with the biology, ecology, and behaviour of the common Raven Corvus corax as it occurs in the UK. There are 8 subspecies of C. corax which has a wide distribution stretching from The UK to Japan and on to Alaska, Canada and the USA. Though mention is made of modern American studies little attention is given to the majority of subspecies, or the 9 other species of Raven outside the UK.

However, accepting these limitations, there is little left to do with this book but enjoy it. As someone with more than a hint of the 'old fashioned' naturalist running in his veins I found the human touch to the authors style highly enjoyable. This is no dry and scientific tome. It is instead a work of praise in honour of a majestic animal written by one who has an abiding love of his subject. That is not to say the work lacks scientific verisimilitude. The author has meticulously researched the literature to add to his years of observations and the mature scientist in me was as happy reading this as the boy naturalist. He has dealt very well with the tricky subject of intelligence in Ravens

Chapter headings: 1)The Raven in Human History; 2)The Raven's Country; 3)Distribution and Numbers in Britain and Ireland; 4)Food and Feeding Habits; 5)Social Behaviour; 6)Raven Movements; 7)Associations with other Animals; 8)Breeding: Nest and Nest Site; 9)Breeding: The Egg Stage; 10)Breeding: The Young; 11)Territorialism and Population Regulation; 12)Ravens in Modern Science; 13)Ravens Elsewhere in the World; 14)Intelligence in Ravens.

The book ends with a series of tables of biological paramtres such as, nesting altitude, brood size, nest sites on buildings, ringing recoveries, food, date of first egg and more.

All in all this is a very enjoyable and informative book to read, a real pleasure for a cold wet winters day when the dismal rain make venturing outside such an undesirable prospect.
Highly Recommended

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Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World

By James A. Hancock, James A. Kushlan and M. Phillip Kahl

Illustrated by Alan Harris and David Quinn
ISBN = 0 12 322730 5
Price = $54.95 HBk
Published = 1992
Review written = 4/March/2000
385 pages
49 colour plates, 40 colour photos, 49 maps

This is a very beautiful book, its greater than A4 format does true justice to the magnificent plates and accommodates a wealth of text. Without doubt, at $54.95 HBk, this is the best value book on wildlife on my shelves. The Brehm Foundation, Academic Press, the authors and illustrators are all to be congratulated on the production of this magnificent work.

Though the plates undoubtedly give this book its awesome beauty it would be unfair not to mention the equally high quality of the text. The two families Ciconiidae and Threskionidae comprise 49 species between them. Here you will find 2 or 3 pages of detailed information on each species. In many cases this represents the entirety of mankind's knowledge of these beautiful birds. Information is supplied on size, distribution (including maps), taxonomy, feeding ecology and reproduction as well as a in depth look at the conservation status and requirements of each species. Preceding the species synopses is a 35 page introduction to the general biology of the group well illustrated with colour photos. Following the species accounts is an appendix giving detailed information, where available, on body size, egg size and egglaying times for each species.

The saddest part of this book is the realisation that, though 20% of all Storks, Ibises and spoonbills are endangered, and that, all species have suffered population declines in the last fifty years resulting mostly from habitat destruction for most species we do not yet have any records of body weights, for four species clutch size is unknown and for two species even the breeding season (including any reproductive requirements) are still unknown.

The Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the world are a very beautiful group of birds, however their natural beauty is done full justice in this magnificent book.
Highly Recommended.

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Encyclopaedia of Birds

By Joseph Forshaw (Ed.)

Illustrated by Dr David Kirshner
ISBN = 0 12262 340 1
Price = $24.95 HBk
Published = September 1998
Review written = 29/February/2000
240 pages
216 colour photos, 103 colour illustrations, 50+ maps and other illustrations

The original, published in 1991, as "Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds" was a useful book for those seeking a first acquaintance with the world of birds. This updated edition serves that purpose equally well, it also makes an excellent gift to someone young or old as a means of introducing them to the beauty and fascination of birds. The most important changes are in the more concise and up-to-date information on endangered species and conservation needs, though some of the images in the front of the book are also new.

The book starts with a 43 page introduction to birds, their form and function, biology, ecology, reproductive strategies, and conservation requirements. The 2nd part of the book is called 'Kinds of Birds'. This introduces various bird taxa in more detail. The taxonomy used throughout the book is out of date, with, for instance, the Tinamous being included with the other Ratites in the Struthioniformes and various Ciconiiformes families being listed as orders in their own rite. Apart from this the book is well produced and accurate. For each taxa discussed specific information is supplied on: Number of families, genera and species; Largest and Smallest; Conservation needs. After this comes a general synopsis of the group including information on habitat usage, feeding and breeding ecology and distribution. The whole book is liberally illustrated with colour photos and paintings both of a very high standard.

All in all this coffee table sized book will make an excellent present for anyone not already well into their bird appreciation.

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The Nuthatches

By Erik Matthysen.

Illustrated by David Quinn
ISBN = 0 85661 101 8
Price = $24.95 HBk
Published = June 1998
Review written = 20/February/2000
315 pages
1 colour plates, numerous b/w illustrations

Nuthatches are popular little birds among those who know them. Their alert and individual foraging methods as well as their loud clear calls make them a special pleasure on any birdwatching trip. Unfortunately they do not come to my bird feeders, but they do come to many peoples making them popular with some householders as well. The Poyser books are the badge of excellence for books for bird lovers and this delightful volume is no exception. Based mainly on the Eurasian Nuthatch, because this is by far the most studied species, this book takes a good look at the biology, taxonomy, ecology and conservation of all 24 species in the genus Sitta.

The book is divided in 3 parts. Part one is an 18 page introduction to the group, their general biology, affinities and distribution. Part two takes an in depth look at the ecology of the authors study species, the Eurasian Nuthatch. He discusses not only the normal characteristics of foraging preferences and techniques, nest construction, incubation, nestling development, pair stability and food storage etc., but also looks in detail at variation in size between the 14 main subspecies, and the effect habitat fragmentation on territorial and breeding behaviour. This section comprises 9 chapters in 140 pages and I think should greatly increase anyone's ability to enjoy watching this bird. Part 3 is 4 chapters or 60 pages of species notes for the remaining 23 species, some of which are very poorly known. The book ends with 6 appendices giving a variety of detailed statistics for the Eurasian Nuthatch and a table of diagnostic traits for for all 24 species.

Chapter heading:Part One:- 1)Introducing the Nuthatches; Part Two:- 2)Taxonomy, Morphology and Moult; 3)Habitat and Population Densities; 4)Foraging and Food Hoarding; 5)The Pair and its Territory; 6)Breeding Biology; 7)Finding a Territory; 8)Dispersal and Migration; 9)Population Dynamics; 10)Nuthatches in Forest Fragments; 11)The Mediterranean Nuthatches; 12)The Rock Nuthatches; 13)Oriental Nuthatches; 14)New World Nuthatches.

Nuthatches are mostly northern temperate forest birds, with an ability to use open parkland and treed suburbia in many cases. as such they are easily found throughout much of the first world. This book will be a blessing to all those who wish to know a little more about these pleasant little birds. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

Highly Recommended

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