Birdbooker Report 324

9 June 2014 by GrrlScientist, posted in Birdbooker Report

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts.


“Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin.
Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.)

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

~ Arnold Lobel [1933-1987] author of many popular children's books.

Compiled by Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen, the Birdbooker Report is a weekly report that has been published online for years, listing the wide variety of nature, natural history, ecology, animal behaviour, science and history books that have been newly released or republished in North America and in the UK. The books listed here were received by Ian during the previous week, courtesy of various publishing houses.

Featured Title:

  1. Safford, Roger and Frank Hawkins (editors). The Birds of Africa: Volume VIII (The Malagasy Region). 2013. Helm/Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 1024 pages. Price: $150.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Birds of Africa series, volumes I–VII, covered the avifauna of continental Africa. This volume fulfils the aspiration, expressed in that series, of a single volume that treats the birds of Madagascar, Seychelles, the Comoros, the Mascarenes and their associated smaller outlying islands -- the Malagasy region. It follows The Birds of Africa series in treating each of the 352 regularly occurring species known from the region in detail, through the assembly of a wealth of information, much of it very recent. Distribution, description, identification, general behaviour, feeding and breeding habits are comprehensively covered, by a roster of the key experts on the birds of the region. All 135 vagrant species are also treated, more briefly, and for the first time the distribution of species across the region is presented in a series of detailed and informative maps. Each species is also extensively illustrated, showing variation in plumage across ages, sexes and geographic regions. One plate [out of 63 total] illustrates species that have recently become extinct in the region, and a separate plate section covers vagrants.
    The region’s avifauna is characterised by a very high level of endemism, both at the species level and higher -- at genus and family levels. Many species, such as the enigmatic Cuckoo-roller, are of abiding interest for comparative or taxonomic studies, and the relationships of the birds of the region to those of Africa and Asia are only now becoming clear. A detailed analysis of the biogeography and evolutionary history of the region is a fascinating and new contribution to this debate, and a thorough overview of the geography, climate and vegetation is also presented within the introductory chapters. This is a major work of reference on the birds of the region and will remain the standard text for many years to come.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with a serious interest in the birds of the region!

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Holden, Peter and Tim Cleeves. RSPB Handbook of British Birds: Fourth Edition. 2014. Bloomsbury. Paperback: 320 pages. Price: $17.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is a revised and updated fourth edition of the bestselling RSPB Handbook of British Birds. This unique guide provides a 'biography' of each of the 280 commonest British bird species. It covers all aspects of field identification, using illustrations from the highly acclaimed Handbook of Bird Identification to show all common plumage forms. The text also covers behaviour, breeding biology, population, status, longevity and any other interesting facts about the species concerned. A detailed distribution map is provided for each species. The rarities section, featuring 26 additional species, has been updated and features two species new to this edition. Six comparison artwork spreads are included to help identify difficult to identify species -- such as ducks, waders, warblers, raptors and gulls -- alongside one another. The RSPB Handbook provides a complete, single source of basic information to our most familiar birds.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the birds of Great Britain.
  2. Potapov, Roald and Richard Sale. Grouse of the World. 2013. New Holland/Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 408 pages. Price: $52.00 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Grouse are a source of fascination for people, not least for their spectacular displays and ability to survive the Arctic winter. To survive the extreme cold the birds have evolved pectinations -- or shovels -- on their toes to excavate burrows in the snow in which they spend up to 22 hours or more daily. To reduce heat loss they have feathered toes, and they also have feathered nostrils, the feathers preventing the nostrils filling with snow and also trapping moisture when the bird is in its burrow: without this excellent moisture trap the walls of the burrow would become iced, preventing air from seeping in and the bird from escaping, sealing it in an icy, air-starved tomb. The digestive system of grouse has also evolved to compensate for winter's rigours. Perhaps most remarkable of all, these specific features are shared by all members of the grouse family -- even those that inhabit the balmy shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
    Grouse of the World explores grouse evolution and then looks at each of the 19 species, detailing distribution, habitat, plumage, subspecies, breeding, diet and conservation. This is the first comprehensive guide to the grouse family [Actually there are two other books: Elliot (1865) and Johnsgard (1983)] , and it includes many drawings, photographs and maps.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: The authors treat the Spruce Grouse as two species (North American and Franklin's Spruce Grouse), which goes against most other sources. The color paintings and range maps could have been done better. People with a serious interest in grouse will still find this book useful.

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This is a guest piece written by Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen. Ian is an avid book collector who is especially well-known to the publishing world. He collects newly-published books about nature, animals and birds, science, and history, and he also collects children's books on these topics. Ian writes brief synopses about these books on his website, The Birdbooker Report.

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