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Thread: Australian Bird Field Guides

  1. #1
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    Default Australian Bird Field Guides

    Hi all,

    I've now arrived back in Australia and I'm wondering what people consider to be the best bird guide books for Australia?

    Being currently located in country Australia, I picked up the only guide book I could get. It's the Michael Morcrombe Field Guide to Australian Birds. It looks pretty good and is a great start to getting a handle on Australia's birdlife. It there a better book that people like?

    That being said there are a few species that I'm struggling to identify so I'll post images when I get the chance for experts to look over.
    Stephen Parker
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM and other stuff

  2. #2
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    I'm new to this "sport" so I bought some guides from Qld Museum website and I'm also starting to use the Birds Queensland bird finder webpage. It helps me identify birds from my photos and often has an mp3 of the bird call.

  3. #3
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    Pizzey and Knight.

    Without doubt the best field guide.

    They have the best drawings, the most information, the best distribution maps, pretty much everything you could want in a field guide. And it's not thta much bigger than the other three main field guides (Slater; Morcombe; Simpson & Day).

    With regards to other guides: for reference, you can't go past HANZAB (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand, and Antarctic birds), although you'll only be able to get access to that though big libraries. Each volume is worth between $400 and $700, and there are 7 volumes (and now no longer in print). And they are each about 900 pages long. For twitching: Thomas and Thomas' "Complete guide to finding the birds of Australia" which came out this year has loads of info on different sites around the country, as well as the best sites for each species of Australian bird. Chuck in a liberal amount of excellent photos by this site's own Dave Stowe, and you have one of the most popular books among Australian birders.

    There are other books, in varying degree of size and excellence, but those are the ones I would rate highest.
    Familiarity breeds contempt; don't neglect the common birds
    --\\
    ---\\_(j*)>.........Aus Life List: 534 (Northern Royal Albatross - 6/9/14)
    ----\___)................NSW List: 428 (Northern Royal Albatross - 6/9/14)
    ------\ \..............o..2014 List: 348 (Southern Giant Petrel - 6/9/14)

  4. #4
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    What do you mean "without a doubt" the best field guide? HANZAB all the way
    Well Stephen, it depends what you like

    Simpson - By far the best images IMO, good text, great distribution maps
    Morcombes - Probably a good choice for you - I think this is a great book for people new to aussie birds, as it clearly shows all the ID features, and the maps are by far the best of any field guide
    Pizzey - The choice made by most birders is this book, which has the best written information aside from the expensive HANZAB volumes, but I haven't got Pizzey...
    Life List: 1438 (Black-backed Bittern)
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    I think Morecombe's is probably the best for newcomers as it's the easiest to use in my opinion and is an excellent guide in itself. I favour Pizzey and Knight as its illustrations and information are arguably the best of the bunch and I also have a copy of Simpson & Day which is quite good too.

    I personally don't think you can go wrong with any of them really, they're all pretty darn good! I guess if I were you I'd stick with Morecombe's and perhaps add Pizzy and Knight to your collection when you're able to.

    There's also the old Reader's Digest - Complete Book of Australian Birds. It was last printed in 2007, but can still be picked up new and from second hand book stores quite often. I've actually bought 4 of them for about $8 each over the past couple of years and then given them away to friends. Don't let the Reader's Digest title dissuade you, it's really quite a good book indeed! Although it certainly isn't a field guide due to its considerable size.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Bergmark View Post
    What do you mean "without a doubt" the best field guide? HANZAB all the way
    That's one VERY big field guide, love to see that those dragged around out when you're out bush!

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    A combination of Pizzey & Knight and Michael Morcombe for me. P&K is my "go to" guide but if I require a little more MM often does the trick.

    Simpson & Day is in my car for emergencies whilst out and about.

    I just bought Slater but I've barely used it.

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    We've got all of them & cross reference between them all. We haven't got any particular favorite & each one has it's
    limitations as well as faults. Personally I don't think the definitive Field Guide to the Birds of Australia has been created yet.
    Regards Keith



    .Our land abounds in Nature's gifts. Of beauty rich and rare.


    Life list total (seen by both of us) = 440 Latest addition Tawny Grassbird Ritamada Point QLD.

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    I have all four 'major' guides in one guise or another, plus a few photographic ones. Pizzey is my favourite and the best overall IMO. Morecombe is good too, although some of the illustrations are very average (waders & seabirds).

    I'd agree with Keith & Judy though in that all the guides have strong and weak points - personally, I think Australia's field guides have some way to go to compare with some of the leading overseas guides (especially the Collins Guide for Britain and Europe). Fingers crossed for the new CSIRO guide that's meant to be in the works!

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    I use Simpson & Day. I really like it, and it is a good size as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Bergmark View Post
    Simpson - By far the best images IMO, good text, great distribution maps
    I don't know if it's just the edition/print I have, but check the distribution map for Pied Butcherbird! I thought I'd take S&D along with P&K on my South Australian trip, and one night was perusing it and noticed that it's telling me that Pied Butcherbird has the exact same range as Black-backed Butcherbird. Apart from that, it does have some good images though.
    Aus Life List: 508 - Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Sydney Pelagic, 13/8/11
    2011 List: 302 - Channel-billed Cuckoo, Concord, 10/10/11

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    Anyway - for mine it's Pizzey & Knight, daylight, more daylight, and then the rest. I was a big fan of Slater, but the latest edition is questionable at best. It's most redeeming feature is portability, but the mini Morcombe is more portable, and edges it for that. I'm not against any of the other three, as they all have pro's and con's, but I rarely take Morcombe with me when I go on a trip, although the mini morcombe sometimes slips into the field guides bag (I'll usually have Pizzey, and a reptile, butterfly and dragonfly guide - no need for any excess books beyond that).

    That said as well, I am finding that after many years of birding and reading all of the guides in their various stages of publication, and older ones that are out of print (one guide that I think should be re-launched is 1993's Birds of Australia, a Summary of Information by MacDonald - I think Slater did the plates), that I reach for a general field guide for birds less often, instead using one of several shorebird guides in summer and Shirihai's Wildlife of Antarctica during winter - all of them destroy the Australian guides for their subject birds. But that's a whole other thread of discussion.
    Aus Life List: 508 - Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Sydney Pelagic, 13/8/11
    2011 List: 302 - Channel-billed Cuckoo, Concord, 10/10/11

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    My personal preference at this stage is Pizzey and Knight, simply because I feel it has the best text descriptions, and doesn't compromise too much on picture quality. The pocket Morecombe is probably your best size for quality of information compromise, as it is small and compact but you do miss out when it comes to picture quality. Morecombe is also available in an iPhone app which I am quite enjoying using right now. It comes with 400+ species calls from David Stewart's collection, which is proving very useful in the field despite me having all the BOCA calls and several of Dave's CDs on my phone already.

    On that note I'll stop, as I could write quite a lot about this. Would there be some interest in a summary of available guides for Australia? I have most of them and certainly have opinions I'd be willing to share if people wanted to hear them If I wrote it I'd probably post it to Bird-O and then link it here for people to check out.
    http://aussiebirding.wildiaries.com/users/127-Chris
    Australian Bird List 2011: 334 (Varied Honeyeater)
    Australian Life List (C&B 2008): 653 (Southern Cassowary)

    Visit www.bird-o.com for the latest on birds and birding in Australia and beyond.

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    Sounds good Chris, if you want to publish it here too go for it The question of best field guides comes up a fair bit on here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Sanderson View Post
    Morecombe is also available in an iPhone app which I am quite enjoying using right now. It comes with 400+ species calls from David Stewart's collection, which is proving very useful in the field despite me having all the BOCA calls and several of Dave's CDs on my phone already.
    Plus 1 for the iPhone app. It's the most useful pay for app i've got... well... it's up there anyway

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Sanderson View Post
    On that note I'll stop, as I could write quite a lot about this. Would there be some interest in a summary of available guides for Australia? I have most of them and certainly have opinions I'd be willing to share if people wanted to hear them If I wrote it I'd probably post it to Bird-O and then link it here for people to check out.
    I've got all of them, including many out of print ones, and would be happy to write a companion piece to fill in any gaps Chris. I'm a librarian and book collector, as well as an awesome procrastinator, and always looking for things to do other than that which I should be doing, and writing reviews of field guides fits that bill nicely haha.
    Aus Life List: 508 - Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Sydney Pelagic, 13/8/11
    2011 List: 302 - Channel-billed Cuckoo, Concord, 10/10/11

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    Quote Originally Posted by mister.troy View Post
    I've got all of them, including many out of print ones, and would be happy to write a companion piece to fill in any gaps Chris. I'm a librarian and book collector, as well as an awesome procrastinator, and always looking for things to do other than that which I should be doing, and writing reviews of field guides fits that bill nicely haha.
    Ok, well I am going to write an introduction article, which will really only highlight the important features/differences of the books I think are relevant for birders at the moment. I think there's definitely room for a more in depth look at some of the books if you wanted to take what I write further! I have a week off coming up so I'll try and work on it then and we can have a chat once it is up
    http://aussiebirding.wildiaries.com/users/127-Chris
    Australian Bird List 2011: 334 (Varied Honeyeater)
    Australian Life List (C&B 2008): 653 (Southern Cassowary)

    Visit www.bird-o.com for the latest on birds and birding in Australia and beyond.

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