Pittas, members of the Passeriform family Pittadae, are very colourful birds. Blues, greens and reds abound in the plumage of nearly every species making them very visually outstanding, except in their natural habitat where they blend into the underbrush very well.
This excellent monograph, only the second ever published on this family, the first was in 1861-63 and again in 1893-95, covers all 30 species of Pitta recognised today as well as many sub-species.
The book is well produced with a brief, but competent, introduction to the family as a whole preceding the 30 individual species reports. Each species is treated to 2 or more pages depending on how much is known about it. These synopses include information under the following headings; Description; Allied species; Recent records; Habitat; Behaviour; Vocalisation; Food and feeding behaviour; Breeding biology; Moulting; General notes; Hybrids; References and one or more distribution maps.
The monograph also contains a complete list of scientific synonyms and a very complete bibliography of more than 1300 references as well as 5 appendices: 1 - Museum acronyms; 2 - Pitta species by island and their status; 3 - World inventory of Pitta egg and nest collection; 4 - World inventory of Pitta skeletons and fluid preserved specimens; 5 - Persons contributing to the work.
The book is illustrated by 32 full size colour plates depicting each species plus some subspecies and eggs (plate 31), and an overview of the whole family (plate 32). The plates are excellent, clear and bright, vividly bring each species alive as you read the accompanying text.
All in all this is a scholarly and attractive work which well fills a previously empty niche in the world of avian literature. An excellent addition to any ornithological library.
Perhaps one of the saddest things in this world outside of mankind's inhumanity to mankind is the poaching and selling of endangered species of animals for pecuniary gain, or merely to satisfy the careless whims of social and cultural ignorance, sometimes pathetically referred to as 'fashion'. Nevertheless, as sad as it seems it happens. One of the roles of concious humanity is to be aware of these problems and to form a mental, and when possible physical, bulwark of opposition to this expression of ignorance. Within the large list of animals on the brink of extinction because of these actions of debased humanity are many beautiful birds.
CITES, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, was first signed in 1973 and has been enforced to some extent since 1975. Since then it has undergone several reviews involving the addition of species and adaptations to more modern taxonomic understandings. It now has more than 115 member countries. However, in order to be effective, it needs to be enforced and for this to occur easily there needs to be general knowledge of the species involved and how to recognise them. This book fulfils this need for birds and in doing so supplies a valuable cog in the machinery of their preservation.
To facilitate enforcement, the CITES lists contain not only endangered species but also those which look similar to endangered species. Given the tendecy of humans to be deceptive this is a wise precaution in that it prevents claims of accidental misidentification. This book illustrates in colour all the 406 actually endangered species of birds. The others, the look alikes, are listed and representatives of genera are illustrated in b/w. The illustrations are clear and effective, and while the text is minimal it is sufficient for the job.
This is both a beautiful and useful book, both the author and the publishers are to be commended for its production. Personally I would like to see this work in every library in the world.