Friday, June 6, 2014
1) Safford, Roger and Frank Hawkins (editors). The Birds of Africa: Volume VIII (The Malagasy Region). 2013. Helm/Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 1024 pages. Price: $150.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Birds of Africa series, volumes I–VII, covered the avifauna of continental Africa. This volume fulfils the aspiration, expressed in that series, of a single volume that treats the birds of Madagascar, Seychelles, the Comoros, the Mascarenes and their associated smaller outlying islands – the Malagasy region. It follows The Birds of Africa series in treating each of the 352 regularly occurring species known from the region in detail, through the assembly of a wealth of information, much of it very recent. Distribution, description, identification, general behaviour, feeding and breeding habits are comprehensively covered, by a roster of the key experts on the birds of the region. All 135 vagrant species are also treated, more briefly, and for the first time the distribution of species across the region is presented in a series of detailed and informative maps. Each species is also extensively illustrated, showing variation in plumage across ages, sexes and geographic regions. One plate [out of 63 total] illustrates species that have recently become extinct in the region, and a separate plate section covers vagrants.
The region’s avifauna is characterised by a very high level of endemism, both at the species level and higher – at genus and family levels. Many species, such as the enigmatic Cuckoo-roller, are of abiding interest for comparative or taxonomic studies, and the relationships of the birds of the region to those of Africa and Asia are only now becoming clear. A detailed analysis of the biogeography and evolutionary history of the region is a fascinating and new contribution to this debate, and a thorough overview of the geography, climate and vegetation is also presented within the introductory chapters. This is a major work of reference on the birds of the region and will remain the standard text for many years to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with a serious interest in the birds of the region!