• REVIEW: Birds of Prey of Australia - Stephen Debus/CSIRO Publishing

    "Birds of Prey of Australia - A Field Guide" - Second Edition

    Stephen Debus / CSIRO Publishing

    Like many birders, I have long been fascinated by raptors.

    I have no idea if it is the aggressive masculine appeal of the carnivore, or simply the amazement at the speed or size of this family of birds, but I have always loved our birds of prey.
    Found throughout our vast country, and often quite conspicuous, the correct identification of our 24 mainland raptors has confused and baffled the best birders. Indeed some species even elude some of our best twitchers!
    The standard field guides devote extra pages to showing underwing patterns etc which are great, but ever since I picked up my first edition of Stephen Debus’ “The Birds of Prey of Australia - A Field Guide”, i was hooked.
    Small and easy to carry around, yet with so much more information than any all encompassing field guide, this book became my favourite and often referred to resource. Superbly illustrated by Jeff Davies, it also helped me to understand juvenile versus immature plumages.

    I then realised how lucky i was as the book went out of print. Whilst he had plans for years to update it, it wasn’t until 2012 that Stephen Debus along with CSIRO Publishing released the Second Edition.
    I wasn’t sure how much more the second version would offer although i was certainly excited!

    The one thing that I had always found frustrating with the first edition was that the illustrations were not with the corresponding species text, and in fact were spread out seemingly randomly throughout the book. Personally the first thing i wanted to do was look at the pictures and to be able to find them quickly.
    Birds of Prey of Australia - Second Edition has not only fixed this issue but gone one better.
    The incredible illustrations by Jeff Davies (straight out of HANZAB) remain, however they are now much easier to find and access with the new “Field Guide” section which includes text and illustrations for each species consecutively at the front of the book. Simple, easy to find and informative, this Field Guide section limits its text to descriptive notes on plumage, size, and diagnostic tips. Illustrations include perched views of each sex and plumage stage, as well as ventral and dorsal flight views. Some species seem to have fewer illustrations than the first edition, however with more complex species such as Little Eagle still having 12, and Brown Falcon a staggering 16, I don’t think birdwatchers will be left feeling short of different illustrations.

    The new and unexpected feature is a section on Difficult species pairs complete with side by side comparitive illustrations. Mostly ventral views, these comparison pages are fantastic for seeing relative wing/tail shape/length of many similar species that often trouble birders.

    New photographs depicting typical ventral views of each species follow, and add that extra dimension that so many find helpful these day.

    The “Handbook” section contains all the other information updated from the first edition which includes notes on Distribution, Food and Hunting, Behaviour, Breeding, and Threats and Conservation. The only thing missing are the supporting illustrations of courtship displays which is a shame.

    The book finishes with text on “Threats, Conservation and the Future”, plus a Glossary and Bibliography.

    For many birders these days moving into such a digital age, we require/expect our favourite books to be supplied as apps or ebooks.
    I already own a printed copy, however for the purposes of review i was lent a copy of the eBook by CSIRO to test.
    On a two week trip to western Queensland a few months ago I found it great to have the digital version along. I have a mount in my 4wd so that my iPad sits next to the gear lever so especially for the passenger its great to flick between maps, and birding apps on a long drive.
    Running the eBook via Bluefire Reader, the clarity and appearance of the printed book were preserved. Not having to carry another book is certainly a major plus, however I found such a tardy response on my iPad2 when turning to the next page. There was such an unexpected delay that i found really quite frustrating over time - especially when trying to find a page quickly. As a novice ebook reader I don’t know if this is a product of my iPad, the Viewer, or the book itself.
    Given that the printed book retails for $39.95 from CSIRO Publishing, and the eBook for under $26 from Google Books, its certainly an interesting choice.

    The easiest choice though is whether to buy it or not! For anyone that loves Australian raptors or struggles with their identification, there is simply no better resource than
    this Second Edition of Stephen Debus’ “Birds of Prey of Australia”.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Birds of Prey of Australia - Stephen Debus/CSIRO Publishing started by David Stowe View original post