Followers

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Book Review - Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds - An Identification Guide - Princeton University Press.

     It is probably a common misconception that birds of paradise acquired their name from their extravagant and surpassingly beautiful plumage, and such an explanation would find ready acceptance by many. It is not true, however. Primitive hunters valued the feathers of the birds for ceremonial regalia, and routinely cut off the wings and legs before adorning their robes with these highly prized objects. When the skins of birds of paradise began to be traded and samples were sent back to European museums it was thought the birds had no wings and therefore must have descended to earth from paradise, having been equipped by the gods to fly without wings. Doubtless their resplendent plumage reinforced this notion - birds worthy of paradise indeed!
     Bowerbirds were long thought to be related to birds of paradise, and both taxa form part of a unique suite of birds found only in the Papua, New Guinea/Australia region. While not as colourful as the birds of paradise, the distinctive life style of bowerbirds and the long-held assumption of their affinities with birds of paradise, merits their coverage in one volume. In fact their traditional association begs for coverage in one volume!
     And this is what Phil Gregory has done.


     In the long history of identification guides this book is a tour de force. From start to finish, it is packed with information, superb artwork, splendid photographs, and a visual stimulus that is hard to beat. Sometimes I compare modern ID guides to some of the old and still treasured volumes on my shelves, and the advances that have been made are astounding. Even within that context, this work ascends to starry heights.


     The introduction, covering forty pages, is broken into two disarmingly simple sections that ask the question, "What is a bird of paradise?" and "What is a bowerbird?" The answers to both questions are laid out with precision, clarity and completeness.


     I am always very fond of having a glossary in a specialized work, and the one in this volume is as good as I have ever seen, so comprehensive is it.
     What then follows is a complete list of all the birds of paradise and all the bowerbirds, with very pleasing artwork by Richard Allen, and a link to the page where coverage of the individual species is rendered in detail, with accompanying photographs and range maps.

     The book ends with an impressive bibliography. My "go to" authorities for birds of paradise and bowerbirds have long been Clifford and Dawn Frith, followed by Bruce Beehler, so I was very pleased to see extensive inclusion of the works of these authorities in the bibliography.
     As a lifelong birder and a dedicated student of the scientific aspects of ornithology, I feel fortunate to be able to benefit from the superb books that are available today. My shelves are filled with volumes acquired over many years, all valuable resources, all representing hours of pleasure, many much used, dogeared and bearing the marks of being carried in the field. I have looked carefully at some of my favourite works and I can say without hesitation that this impressive work will quickly ascend to the top of the list. And I will be visiting Australia later this year. What a treasure it will be!

Select pages from Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds: An Identification Guide
Phil Gregory, illustrated by Richard Allen. Copywright © 2020 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.
Hardcover - US$45.00 - 9780691202143
416 pages - 40 colour plates - 151 colour photos - 77 maps - 6 3/4 in. x 9 3/8 in.
Publication date: 25 February 2020

59 comments:

  1. Sounds like a fantastic book, I love the illustrations.
    Amalia
    xo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good graphics, with solid explanations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It does indeed look like a treasure. A treasure to pore over time and time again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a remarkable book, Sue - especially for an Australian.

      Delete
  4. Por tu muy buena y esplendida explicación debe ser un volumen de gran valor y consulta para cualquiera que se preste a ser un buen ornitólogo.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello David,

    It looks fantastic, and the drawings are very beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Benämningen paradisfåglar för mina tankar till färggranna, ovanliga och till det som vi människor uppfattar som mycket vackra fåglar. Tyvärr tror jag att fåglarnas skönhet har varit en olycka för dem eftersom de blev så eftertraktade hos människan.

    Det är väldigt trevligt att du introducerar böcker här på bloggen men varje gång tänker jag på om du har ytterligare plats för en bok i dina hyllor? Jag skämtar förstås, bokhyllor fyllda med böcker är den skönaste prydnad man kan ha i ett hem
    ..tycker en bokälskare i Norden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is still room for more, Gunilla, and then there is the third bedroom which is hardly ever used.............

      Delete
  7. I'm sure this guide is ,as you say, a great "visual stimulus". The vivid colors of the plumage, and the unique shape of the paradise, birds are a feast to the eyes.
    New Guinea and eastern Australia probably have the optimal conditions for the proper evolution of these birds. Let's hope nothing bad interferes with that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ces oiseaux sont vraiment très beaux, les dessins sont très réussis et de belles photos.
    Un livre qu'il doit être aussi agréable à lire qu'à regarder.
    Bonne soirée

    ReplyDelete
  9. That looks like a very interesting guide to birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds, and exquisitely illustrated too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hari OM
    Having enjoyed the presence of bowerbirds on several occasions, I can vouch for their bringing of joy to the eye. A little paradise happens in its presence! Hope you get the opportunity when you are down under. YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the areas that I will be visiting Satin Bowerbird and Green Catbird are good possibilities, YAM. Now if only I were going to Queensland!

      Delete
  11. This certainly seems like a great addition to your library, and you are going to Australia later! How serendipitous.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A beautifully illustrated book. Hope you get to see those birds in Australia later this year.
    I've seen a documentary about the Bowerbirds and their habit of collecting blue things to attract females. Such clever birds :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I look forward in anticipation of your Australian bird posts and images.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will be a while, Helen. I don't leave until July. The temperature at that time of the year should be right to my liking.

      Delete
  14. Looks a really good book.
    I've seen a bower-bird nest up north but no sign of the bird.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi David! This sounds like a good book, with beautiful illustrations. Thanks for explaining about 'birds of paradise', that's something i didn't know. I am looking forward to all of the lovely pics you will be taking in Australia, that will be a wonderful journey! Have a great weekend, Valerie

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi David - what an amazing resource for us all, and obviously so thorough. Wonderful you'll be seeing some of the species when you go down under later in the year. I think one of David Attenborough's very early BBC programmes was to search out the bird of paradise ... it was 'somewhere in Asia' (not a helpful description) = but I did compulsively watch a repeat relatively recently ... they are quite extraordinary. This must be wonderful to look through and more so because you own it as a reference book ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  17. I always enjoy your book recommendations!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello David, a trip to Australia sounds awesome. This guide book looks great! Thanks for the review! Enjoy your day, have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will be bittersweet after the destruction caused by the fires, Eileen, but it is going to be interesting to view the process of regeneration.

      Delete
  19. What a beautiful book. There are so many interesting birds!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wonderful pictures sounds like a good book.
    Merle............

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi, David!
    I have a similar book, but not as complex as this!
    The drawings are very beautiful in jour book!
    Wonderful ...

    ReplyDelete
  22. El libro me parece genial. Seguro que el viaje a Australia será maravilloso y a España, Parque Nacional de Monfragüe ¿ para cuando ? Un abrazo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to visit Spain again, Teresa, pero no sé cuándo.

      Delete
  23. Hello David, great review and guide book. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thank you for the visit and comment.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What fascinating history on how these beauties obtained their name. This book looks like a feast for the eyes! Both these bird species are stunning. I do enjoy seeing them on documentaries strutting their feathers.

    ReplyDelete
  25. It would seem, from your description, to be a beautiful book, David. However, I'm more than a little behind with my reading, and so I'm carefully targetting what I buy and, sadly, this will not be one for me.

    My very best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This book is in the stratosphere, Richard, but I understand perfectly. And if you are unlikely ever to encounter these birds there is less incentive to buy, although to use a much overworked expression, it is "eye candy" of the best kind!

      Delete
  26. ...there sure are some colorful birds in paradise.

    ReplyDelete
  27. A beautiful book, birds and Paradise and Bowerbirds, well worthy have.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It must be a great book, the birds of paradise are the most colorful, strange and amazing birds, with behaviors that excedes the most fertile and crazy imagination. Undoubtedly a book to have in the library of bird lovers.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Nice book review and beautiful photoes!Ilike to read and learn history of all kind of birds and Ishould like to buy this one:)))

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a beautiful book it will be with all those beautiful birds.
    Greetings Tinie

    ReplyDelete
  31. Interesting information. Think I would enjoy this book. Have a good week, Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a fellow bird love, Diane, I would be a tray full of Miriam's blueberry muffins that you would enjoy this book.

      Delete
    2. That should say I would bet not I would be!

      Delete
  32. Hello David, A great review of this book of that part of the world with its jewels. Have you ever been there? I am glad that we can enjoy all these cratures trough films made by Sir David Frederick Attenborough and other naturalists. If I only would have been younger than for sure I would go and see those amazing birds.
    Regards,
    Roos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good morning Roos: I suspect that many viewers got their introduction to these species via the medium of Attenborough's programmes. What a great man! If only our politicians had his vision.

      Delete
  33. Must admit I would rather watch these birds on TV than read about them. I have seen lots of fascinating programmes about bower birds in particular. The book looks fantastic though with wonderful pictures. You have reminded me that I went for an interview, when I first came to Canada, with a publisher who ended up giving me a paperback bird book they printed. A very useful acquisition for someone new to the continent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Watching them is tremendous fun, Jo, and I enjoy it very much, but for anyone interested in learning about lifestyle, breeding biology, diet, biometrics etc further reading is essential.

      Delete
  34. David:

    If you have not read it yet, and may enjoy some of the physiological and ecological underpinnings of ethology.... you may find a copy of Alcock’s “Animal Behavior” pleasant time read. While it comes a large array of different animal’s behavior.... a considerable amount is bird specific. I especially find the neurobiology of bird song especially intriguing and lecture about it in a few of my courses.

    PipeTobacco

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks very much for this tip. I have not read the book and will be sure to try to find a copy.

      Delete
  35. Querido David muchas gracias por mostrarnos tan hermoso trabajo, me encantan las aves del paraíso e incluso en mis años de juventud tuve una época en que pinté alguna. Un enorme abrazo.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Gorgeous snow scenes and I love the shots of the Buzzard and Hawk.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I would choose it for the photos and illustrations alone. The rest is frosting (from a non-watching person!)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Dla mnie takie książki są wzorem. Podziwiam umiejętności rysowania ptaków. To inspiracja!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Oh dear!!! Never knew they were doing these atrocities with the birds of paradise !! I am very happy with your information because I think this is important to know. I find birds of paradise really beautiful and colorful to see but I thought the name paradise was also because of their appearance. Fortunately I know better now.
    It is again a very important book with beautiful information.
    Thank you so much for sharing David.
    A warm hug from the Netherlands

    ReplyDelete
  40. Looks a beautiful book.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
  41. The illustrations certainly are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete