Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: Collins Bird Guide by Lars Svensson and Peter J. Grant

In a highly competitive field, Collins Bird Guide stands out as a leader not only because of its visual impact but because of the quality of the contents, concise but informative, detailed but not over-analytic. Beautifully illustrated plates show all the species of Europe in detail and the text does an excellent job of outlining habitat preferences, calls and behaviour in a way that assists identification. Range maps are also included for all regularly occurring species to add to the holistic approach to identifying birds taken in this book: this is a book for birdwatchers by birdwatchers.

Certain groups of species are dealt with particularly well in this book; gulls, shorebirds and raptors are particularly well illustrated in a variety of poses, plumage types and ages. In addition to this, there are nice identification tips for certain sections such as the ageing of gulls and identification of divers in flight. For those advanced birdwatchers, many species of vagrants and occasional migrants are also included with a list of accidental and introduced species at the back.

With this level of detail it may seem that Collins Bird Guide is a book for experts only, and whilst it is the choice of most regular birdwatchers it is also the best choice for beginners because of the superb layout and illustrations as well as the selectivity of the text. That this book is endorsed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says much about its quality for experts and beginners alike.

There are a few problems with this book however, including some minor inaccuracies in some range maps, which may confuse beginners, and the fact that gull classification has advanced since publication. Despite these small problems, Bird Guide's subtitle, "The Most Complete Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe" is almost certainly true.

This book is highly recommended for beginner and advanced birdwatchers in Britain and Europe, either in its small, field guide, size or in its large, reference book, size.

Score: 9.5/10

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