Book Review: Birds of Australia

Looking at the guide with a more critical eye has been enjoyable, as well. The first pages contain background information typical to many field guides, with a section on how to use the guide and another with general birdwatching tips.

The bulk of the book is made up of field information for the bird species found in Australia. 780 species are profiled; there are color illustrations for each bird, with different plumages shown when appropriate. The illustrations are vibrant and detailed. The quality seems consistent throughout, which is to be expected when the illustrations are all done by the same hand (Nicolas Day). The color plates are attractively arranged, many with a non-intrusive habitat-appropriate background. Many of the birds are further illustrated with a small black-and-white drawing accompanying the text, usually to show a certain behavior, other identification clues like nests or feather patterns, or to point out additional field marks. Range maps are included with the species text.

After the field information pages, there is a lengthy Vagrant Bird Bulletin, highlighting rarities with sighting data, small illustrations, and a quick run-down of field marks. Supplemental information continues after the bulletin with information on Australian bird habitats, breeding information which includes a breeding summary broken down by family and species. There are also species checklists for Australian island territories, more tips for birdwatchers, a glossary, and two indexes (one for Latin names and one for common (English) names).

The inside covers have sea-bird bill profiles, showing the actual size of the bills of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and others. There are instructions on how to measure the bill length - this part of the guide is provided "for the accurate identification of dead birds washed up on the beach." While that seems a bit morbid, the illustrations are pretty cool to look at (the albatross bills are incredible!) and I can imagine it would be great to be able to ID such a bird.

The book is softbound, with an attractive glossy protective cover. The cover has already gotten pretty ratty just being handled here in my office and I would probably leave it at home were I to take the book into the field. The soft cover, however, is made of plastic and seems extremely sturdy for field use. It's a bit bigger than Sibley's Eastern guide, an appropriate size for field use (6.25" x 8.25" x 1").

I give Birds of Australia 5 Goldfinches out of 5.

Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Birds of Australia, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.

*Let it be known that as a newer birder with a love of (some may say obsession with) books, I am very happy to receive review copies of any and all bird-related books. I love to read them and review them!

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