A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, Julian Fitter and Don Merton, Princeton University Press, soft cover, 288 pages, $24.95.
This is another in the Princeton Press series of bird identification guide books for various regions of the world. Locations selected are those frequently visited by birders. These compact and well-designed books can help ensure that birders have successful trips. The New Zealand book is illustrated with several hundred high-quality photographs (including the beautiful all-white Greater Snow Petrel a favorite of mine even though I’ve never seen it). One feature I think particularly helpful are the brief notes accompanying each species, giving you a short list of best places to see these birds. This is something that every guide book could use, even those that limit themselves to states or counties. The tips are not lengthy, but they do point you in the right direction. The book has maps, locations of sanctuaries and particularly good birding spots, a list of pelagic opportunities, and a list of tour vendors. There are brief comments on geography, habitat types, and climate. There is a bibliography and an index.
Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, second edition, Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp, Princeton University Press, soft cover, 528 pages, $39.50. Illustrated with paintings. Distribution maps and text on pages facing the illustrations. Placing maps with text is always a good idea. I wish the text was in a larger type face, but that’s my age making a statement. And if the type went up even a couple of points, this substantial book would be even larger. The index is unique in my experience, entries double-spaced, making them very accessible. This makes the book a couple of pages longer, the value of the addition well worth the decision. There are maps, and brief text dealing with climate, habitat, conservation, including religious attitudes and traditional protection, current threats to the species, family summaries, a list of vagrants, and another list for “doubtful species.” I like the latter. It would be useful in any guide book. It helps prevent the urge to make a bird something it isn’t. It’s interesting how these books approach a common subject in different ways, most books offering a presentation of some kind that would serve birders well if used more widely, i.e., the index in this one.