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The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia: the definitive work on bird identification.

The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia: the definitive work on bird identification

by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight, Edited by Sarah Pizzey Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 9 edn, 2012. ISBN 9780732291938. RRP $45.00

The latest edition of Pizzey and Knight's Field Guide to the Birds of Australia is as informative as it is attractive. Produced to aid in the identification of wild bird species in the field, the book provides information and illustrations of 842 bird species found on the Australian continent, its continental islands and its seas. This new edition accounts for the latest information relating to the taxonomy, distribution and classification of Australian birds, meaning 18 species are included in the guide for the first time.

As with past editions, each species is beautifully illustrated and accompanied by detailed text. The plumage is described of a typical adult and differences between males, females and juveniles are highlighted and can be compared back to illustrations for clarification. Outstanding markings are italicized and useful habits and behavioral features follow, for quick recognition in the field. The attention given to the differences between similar species is most valuable. Habitat, breeding season, voice, nest, range and status are described and an updated distribution map accompanies the text. Such extensive detail means this guide is bigger and heavier than most other guides available. While its size might be unappealing for those who like to travel light in the field, it is this detail and accuracy that sets this book apart from other guides.

There are a number of adjustments that have been made to this edition that are intended to make the guide more user-friendly. The quick reference guide, included for the first time in the previous edition, is now spread over twice the number of pages and birds are clearly separated by the environments in which they are most likely seen. This is a vast improvement, and it now serves its purpose of making navigating to appropriate pages much easier. Similarly, the addition of illustrations to the family introductions in the final pages of the book enhances the section. Amateur bird watchers are likely to benefit from these improvements the most; the placement of species in taxonomic order throughout field guides is not necessarily an intuitive arrangement for many. In contrast, the helpfulness of the new section for vagrant species is questionable. When they were together with related species, and labelled as vagrants, differences were easy to identify. Now, comparison of vagrants with similar species requires plenty of page turning.

The introductory section provides valuable information to first time bird watchers, with basic tips for using binoculars, description of body shapes and parts, explanation of technical names, and advice on the best features to observe that will help with identification. Yet, throughout the whole field guide, it is the illustrations that offer the most. They are enjoyable, informative and inspiring for bird enthusiasts of all levels of experience.

This new edition of Pizzey and Knight's book delivers an outstanding identification resource that continues to be my favourite field guide for Australian birds.

Emma Carlos

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy

Burwood, Victoria 3125
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Author:Carlos, Emma
Publication:The Victorian Naturalist
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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