We may be leaving the EU but we can’t turn our back on the geographic region in which ‘our’ birds sit (and fly). This book lists our birds – all 1,148 species recorded in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East (including Iran and the Arabian Peninsula). It is a phenomenal work of summary by the founder and managing editor of Birdwatch magazine.
I cannot completely imagine how much work has gone into producing this book – it is a labour of love and of scholarship. It’s simple in theory, all one does is find out which species of birds have occurred in a particular part of the world and produce a list of them. Nothing to it really!
But what is a species? They keep changing as species are mostly split but also lumped. And what name should you give them – there are often plenty of choices. And what should be the boundaries of ‘this part of the world’? Here Dominic takes a more expansive definition than BWP and includes Iran and the Arabian Peninsula – almost certainly sensible decisions but also ones which increased the size and difficulty of the task. And in which order should one list the species? That keeps changing as taxonomic knowledge changes (and presumably improves) – I still can’t get used to the falcons being separated from eagles etc. And countries have changed a bit over time too, which has implications for how to track down the information.
But having decided which species and which countries to use, and which order to write the list, one still has to unearth all the information and summarise it succinctly. Not many of us could even contemplate embarking on such a task without shuddering at the thought and recoiling in horror. Personally, I wouldn’t have got beyond Common Ostrich Struthio camelus ((Ostrich or North African (Red-necked) Ostrich) let alone reached Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea.
This book is the ultimate reference book and I envisage using it often as time goes on. By its very nature it is already out of date and will get more so as the world changes. But if you think you can do better then you’d better start work now and I’ll review your effort in, shall we say, a decade.
I don’t often comment on the price of books in these reviews, because prices vary between outlets, but this volume strikes me as being good value for money considering the wealth of information it contains.
Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: an annotated checklist by Dominic Mitchell is published by Lynx.