A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil ペーパーバック – 2009/10/9
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THE REVIEW: This book is one of very few books to cover all the birds of Brazil. The other books available today (Sep 2009) either have inferior artwork (Souza) or no identification text (Sigrist) or cover only the passerines from the entire continent (Ridgely). Without a doubt, you'll want and need this book when birding in Brazil. It's a bit larger (9.5 x 6.5 inches) and heavier than a usual smaller field guide, but its content makes it a requirement to be carried in your larger pocket.
The bulk of this book is its 187 color plates which illustrate all 1,800+ species in the country. Each plate contains about 10 species with multiple illustrations of each for about 80% of the birds. It seems most of the birds with only one illustration are the passerines, notably the woodcreepers, spintetails, foliage-gleaners, antpittas, and much of the flycatcher family. The multiple illustrations of a bird depict the gender differences and the plumage variations between some of the races and subspecies; however, these races are not always identified in the text. The plates often only refer to the variations with an "a" or "b" next to them.
The quality of the artwork between the plates varies between simply okay to good. As an example, the pelican, herons, tropicbirds, owls, some hummingbirds, puffbirds, tapaculos, and tityras can be sketchy, as if a first good draft was sufficient enough for this initial publication. In contrast, the artistry and detail can be quite nice in some of the woodcreepers, antbirds, flycatchers, and warblers. As a last note on the plates, some of the illustrations lean towards the smaller size. Some are simply too small (e.g., the Purpletufts) and leave much of the page as blank white space. There is definitely room to enlarge many of the birds. I suspect the smaller size was an artifact of trying to maintain relative size with the other species on the plate.
Each bird receives a brief paragraph (4-10 short lines) across from its plate. This information is very concise and often provides only the minimum of information on identification. As an example, the description on the Brown-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant simply says, "Loral spot is buff, not white". The Klages's Antwren reads, "Resembles [bird] 106.2 but less extensive streaking below". These tidbits are helpful, but lack depth or additional notes that will be needed for many of the similar birds in Brazil. For a few of the birds, some short notes are given to differentiate between the more frustratingly similar birds. The remainder of the paragraph consists of a sentence describing the voice and another partial sentence on the bird's preferred habitat.
Next to the bird's text is a small map showing the range within Brazil. This range is not shown extending beyond the country's borders. To help give more accuracy or reference with the range, the Brazilian states are outlined and some major rivers are included. Except for some of the tiny dots representing limited ranges, the maps do a good job at being visible. Three different shades of blue, red, and green denote the abundance (aka, likelihood of finding) of the birds in winter, summer, and year-round residency.
I like the inclusion of a list of all 218 Brazilian endemics at the rear of the book along with the plate number on which the bird can be seen. An attempt to highlight the endemism of the species in the plates was done by using a blue font for the bird's name. Unfortunately, this did not print well and you must look intently at the lettering to discern if the word is black versus almost-black-but-not-quite. The code of "En" is put at the end of the bird's text as well.
As a last note, the taxonomic order of the birds mostly follows conventional practice. However, as the author noted in the introduction, some of the birds have been relocated to be next to "like groups". Consequently, it took me a while to find the tinamous. Normally located on the first plate, these birds were found later on plate 27 between the hawks and guans.
This is a most welcome book and is definitely the best guide available today. You must have this book if you're serious about birding in Brazil. It will be nice to see two new Brazilian bird books by Zimmer (2010) and by Grantsau (2010). -- (written by Jack, shown with sample pages at Avian Review, September 2009)
I found a few illustrations with no index numbers associating them to the facing text, and the index number for Spot-throated Woodcreeper is assigned also to the portrait of the Olivaceous Woodcreeper, but that mistake is on a page where the illustrations line up well with the text sequence and compensation is easy. A very few plates don't follow the text sequence exactly, and birders in the field should be alert to that. In the species accounts observations about comparable species are made using the index numbers (rather than species names), which feels a bit cumbersome when the comparisons are to species on different pages.
I suspect that most birders would find this one volume quite satisfactory for a birding holiday in any region of Brazil, and those birders new to Brazil will find the introductory material informative.
The index mixes Brazilian names, scientific names and common names but the common names are in a larger font and in bold which helps out. There is a separate listing of the Brazilian endemics, which is nice.
My personal rating of the book is about a B. Not at all bad for a first attempt.