I love birds of prey. But, even with my plethora of field guides, I struggle. I can be comparing images, sometimes from multiple guides, and still get confused. It got to the point where I needed a guide dedicated to just birds of prey.
Birds Of Prey Of Australia is a mixture of field guide and handbook.. It is separated into two parts: one focusing just on identification and one dedicated to exploring the behaviour and characteristics of a species in more detail.
It is one of the best guides I own and one that I would recommend to any bird enthusiast.
Part 1: The field guide
The first part is dedicated to helping readers identify the 26 different species of birds of prey. Most of this part is organized into species descriptions. There are smaller sections at the end dedicated to vagrants and difficult pairs.
Most species descriptions take up just two pages, except for white-bellied sea eagle which has four. These descriptions are split equally between text and graphics.
The images vary between 4 and 16 per page, depending on the amount of variations within a species. The images show:
- how different morphs, gender and age can influence the birds physical appearance.
- examples of worn plumage
- what the bird looks like in moult.
- what the birds look like from different perspectives including in flight, from above, from below and perched.
The images are accompanied by detailed physical descriptions. There is information on the adults, juveniles and chicks. The final paragraph is dedicated the explaining how to tell a species apart from similar ones.
I love this. There are so many subtleties when it comes variations in a birds appearance; much more than most field guides can cover. Previously, I’d learn this information in the field when with a more experienced birder. This guide lessons the learning curve.
Difficult species: pairs
This section is a highlight and something that I will be returning to often. The section features 38 pages of comparisons between different species.
The first 12 pages are illustrations showing the visual differences between species. These illustrations are split in the middle of the page and show how the underwings compare to similar species. In some cases, the illustrations show the differences between different morphs and adult/juvenile.
This section alone is worth the cost of the guide.
Part 2: Handbook
The handbook section is organized differently to Part 1. The content focuses on the behaviour and issues facing each species. Debus allocates two pages to each species and writes about the species distribution, food and hunting, breeding and threats and conservation.
I appreciated this content being kept separate from the part focused on identification. It helps me avoid being overwhelmed when trying to identify a species and allows me to learn more at my own pace.
Do I recommend it?
I highly recommend this book.
I used to sit with multiple guides in front of me and still have difficulty identifying a species. The difficult species pages are so useful that they are worth the entire cost of the book.
The guide also had just enough information. I’m able to dive in and learn more about the species that intrigue me without getting overwhelmed. Overwhelm has been a huge issue for me so this was very much appreciated.
I recommend it to people at all stages of their birdwatching journey.