Richard Noske reviews 'The Australian Bird Guide' by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin

Richard Noske reviews 'The Australian Bird Guide' by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin

The Australian Bird Guide

edited by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin

CSIRO Publishing, $49.95 pb, 576 pp, 9780643097544

With five illustrated field guides, two e-guide apps, and at least three photographic guides available to help people identify birds in Australia, some would question the need for yet another. The first field guide to Australian birds, written and illustrated by renowned bird artist Peter Slater, was published in 1970 and 1974 (two volumes). Since then, new guides have appeared roughly each decade. Given the purpose of field guides, good illustrations of each species are paramount, and these are invariably presented in plates, with a facing page of text pointing out the diagnostic characteristics of each species, and often a map showing where it occurs. Additional information on the species’ appearance, voice, habitat, distribution, and status are often provided in a separate section, and the ratio of such text to illustrated plates varies markedly among field guides around the world. The earlier Australian field guides tended to be overloaded with extraneous information, devoting as little as twenty per cent of their pages to illustrations, while more recent guides both here and overseas have moved towards fifty per cent plates, cramming all the relevant information onto the facing pages. A notable exception is the self-illustrated Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds (2000), in which the nests and eggs of almost all Australian-breeding species are described and illustrated, an edifying but completely unnecessary addition to a field guide.

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Richard Noske

Richard Noske

Richard Noske studied bird ecology for his PhD at University of New England, NSW, and completed a Graduate Diploma in Education before moving to Darwin, where he soon became a Senior Lecturer in Biology at Charles Darwin University (CDU), a post he held for 26 years. During that time Richard conducted many bird studies in the Top End, as well as in neighbouring Indonesia. He has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific journal publications, 15 book chapters and three books including Birds of the Darwin Region (CSIRO, 2015). Richard has also served as Chief or Associate Editor of four bird journals, and was President of Birds Queensland from 2012 to 2015.

Published in October 2017, no. 395

Comments (1)

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    I found the index of this book irritating (not sorted by most significant part of the name). There is now a revised index available in electronic format. This index lists species under both their scientific name, and also under their common name, and common family name.
    It is available here...

    Thursday, 04 January 2018 18:43 posted by Emma Richardson

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