Book of the Week: Cotingas and Manakins

Continuing our selection of the very best titles available through NHBS:

Cotingas and Manakins

Guy Kirwan and Graeme Green

Cotingas and Manakins jacket imageWhat?

New Helm Identification Guide from two leading authorities on Neotropical birds.


The Cotingas and the Manakins are two of the most attractive of the Neoptropical bird groups. They are immensely popular with birders for their striking colours and unusual plumage, as well as being of great benefit to the sciences of ornithology and evolutionary biology, due to their characteristic natural history and behaviour.

This new volume from Helm includes all the latest research into identification and behaviour, along with the latest conclusions regarding the enticingly complex taxonomy of these birds – which is now considered to consist of species belonging to at least five different families.

Colour plates are by Eustace Barnes, a professional ornithologist and artist specialising in the Neotropics, and these are accompanied by detailed distribution maps, while hundreds of spectacular full-colour close-up photographs illustrate the vast majority of the species described.


Guy Kirwan has spent much of the last two decades in the Neotropics, from Mexico to Argentina and Chile, but especially Brazil, a country in which he has spent more than seven years in the field. He has written several books, including The Birds of Turkey and is a regular contributor to the academic literature. A research associate of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Guy was one of the founders of the Neotropical Bird Club, and has edited its journal “Cotinga” since 1996. Since 2004, he has also been the editor of the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. Guy now divides his time between his homes in Rio de Janeiro and Norwich. 

Graeme Green was born in Scotland, but grew up in Kent, one of the best counties in Britain for birdwatching. During the late 1970s Graeme was a regular on the UK ‘twitching’ scene and from there it was a small step to travel abroad in search of birds; he eventually chose the ‘bird continent’ as his primary love and has travelled widely in search of cotingas and manakins. He has served on the councils of the Oriental Bird Club and the Neotropical Bird Club, and formerly compiled the Taxonomic Round-up for Cotinga.

Available Now from NHBS

Two great new bird field guides, in stock now at NHBS

Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia jacket imageField Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde
Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey

This is a brand new field guide from Lynx Edicions, the publishers of Handbook of the Birds of the World, and Handbook of the Mammals of the World.

A quality compact hardback field guide, with detailed distribution maps and carefully illustrated colour plates. It covers all 573 species and subspecies of resident, nesting, migrating and vagrant birds.

Birds of Trinidad and Tobago jacket imageHelm Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, 2nd Edition
Martyn Kenefick, Robin Restall and Floyd Hayes

Helm do as they do best with this new second edition of Trinidad and Tobago (first published in 2007). Following a general introduction to the region and its habitats, tips for the birder, and a ‘where to watch’ section, is the ID guide in full. The essential identification of each occurring bird species is complemented by illustrated plates showing colour variations. 500 new or replacement images have been included in this edition.

NHBS Ornithology Catalogue Summer 2011

Keith Betton reviews ‘Reed and Bush Warblers’

“Putting the spotlight on some hard-to-see warblers”

Keith Betton, chairman of the African Bird Club, shares his thoughts on the recently published Helm Identification Guide to Reed and Bush Warblers.

Reed and Bush Warblers

“In size and feel, this book is closest to the Helm volume on Sylvia Warblers, and similarly it is also an impressive tour de force. At the outset the authors deserve praise for tackling such a challenging group of genera which contain some of the most secretive species in the world! The families covered are Locustellidae, Acrocephalidae and Cettiidae – 112 species in 13 genera, of which 21 are on the British List.

The 42 colour plates by Brian Small are grouped together at the front of the book. These really are excellent, with usually just one or two species per page and a selection of distinctive races being shown with brief descriptions on the facing pages. The main species texts are really comprehensive, giving detailed accounts of structure and plumage and comparisons with similar species. Vocalisations are described and sonograms are shown, although – rather like the text – they are a bit on the small side! In contrast the colour distribution maps are superb – being large and clearly annotated to show the ranges of each race for both breeding and winter distribution. These ranges are also described, as are the choice of habitats. Movements, breeding habits, behaviour and moult are all treated in separate sections, as are in-hand measurements, which are also accompanied by diagrams of the wing formulae. A section on taxonomy and systematics allows for an explanation of recent changes. In my view it would have been helpful to include here the various names that readers may encounter when reading about the species elsewhere. Good colour photographs are included for all but the most obscure species, and helpfully these are positioned at the end of each species text. No detail has been spared in presenting information. The various appendices give information about the type localities and synonyms for each species, as well as body measurements based on fieldwork and museum specimens.

In creating this book the authors have taken advantage of molecular analysis based on DNA comparisons. These studies have turned some of our understandings upside down. For example, research strongly suggests that two accepted races of Aberrant Bush Warbler are in fact races of Sunda Bush Warbler. Also who would have thought that Grasshopper and Lanceolated Warblers were not closely related? It appears that that they are seated in different clades, and Grasshopper Warbler is actually more closely related to Chinese Bush Warbler – and therefore is likely to be a Bradypterus and not a Locustella!

A number of these taxonomic issues are discussed in the introductory chapters. The authors have adopted a pragmatic approach and have been flexible in deciding the scope of the book to ensure the inclusion of the most challenging genera. Among their decisions is the adoption of Iduna as a sister genus to Acrocephalus for four species usually accepted as being in the genus Hippolais (Eastern and Western, Sykes’s and Booted Warblers), while Thick-billed Warbler is put in the genus Phragamaticola. Similarly Chestnut-headed Tesia is on its own in the genus Oligura. The recent splitting up of Spotted Bush-Warbler is only partly followed, with the authors recognising the creation of Baikal Bush-Warbler (Bradypterus davidi), but not West Himalayan Bush Warbler (Bradypterus kashmirensis). Similarly Anjouan Brush-Warbler (Nesillas longicaudata) is lumped into Madagascar Brush-Warbler.

When it comes to the use of English names, the choice stays fairly close to the IOC List, although occasionally the Clements name is favoured instead, and on some occasions the authors have adopted names that are used by neither – such as Kinabalu Bush-Warbler (for Bradypterus accentor) and Kiritimati Warbler (for Acrocephalus aequinoctialis). One species that followers of Clements will find missing is Victorin’s Scrub-Warbler. Although treated as a Bradypterus in that list, it has been renamed as Victorin’s Warbler by IOC and placed in the genus Cryptillas next to the Crombecs and Longbills in the family Macrosphenidae. Those who are interested in the choice of races will again have plenty to discuss – although space does not allow details to be listed here.

It would be a mistake to think that there is little left to learn about these Old World families. For example, how did we overlook the Large-billed Reed Warbler? Identified from a single specimen collected from India in 1865, it was 140 years before it was detected again – and yet since 2006 three have been trapped in Thailand. Similarly Timor Bush Warbler was described from two specimens collected in 1932, and then not seen again. But just a year ago it was rediscovered in good numbers, while nearby on the island of Alor this or perhaps another species has now been discovered. Recognising that the relationships between the species in this book will probably change before a second edition is printed, the authors have wisely included an appendix which summarises some of the likely revisions likely to result from recent research. For example Little Rush Warbler and Evergreen Forest Warbler are both likely to be split into several new species, while Javan Bush Warbler and Russ et Bush Warbler may be lumped, as may also Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler and Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler.

An amazing amount of work has gone into this volume, and it certainly gets my personal “book of the year” award.”

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Birds of South America: Passerines – Now In Stock at NHBS – Save 15%

178048[2]Birds of South America: Passerines has now arrived at NHBS! This is the first single-volume guide to South American passerines, based on a two-volume work first published in 1989 and 1994. For the new edition, the text has been condensed, most of the missing species that were not illustrated before have now been painted, and brand new maps have been compiled for every species.
This is a major identification guide to the songbirds of South America. No other single volume guide exists for passerines (though there is a single-volume guide for non-passerines from Collins). There are still large areas of South America without a comprehensive field guide, so this book will become essential for anyone birding in these areas (e.g. Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay).

Order your copy today – and save 15%!

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Birds of the Horn of Africa – Now in Stock at NHBS

The eagerly awaited Helm Field Guide for Birds of the Horn of Africa has now arrived at NHBS!

The Horn of Africa has the highest endemism of any region in Africa, and around 70 species are found nowhere else in the world. Many of these are confined to the isolated highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, but a large number of larks specialise in the arid parts of Somalia and adjoining eastern Ethiopia, whilst the island of Socotra has its own suite of endemic species. The region is also an important migration route and wintering site for many Palearctic birds.

This is the first field guide to the birds of this fascinating region, and an ideal companion to Birds of East Africa by two of the same authors. Over 200 magnificent plates by John Gale and Brian Small illustrate every species that has ever occurred in the five countries covered by the guide, and the succinct text covers the key identification criteria. Special attention is paid to the voices of the species, and over 1000 up-to-date colour distribution maps are included.

Covering Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Socotra, this long-awaited guide is a much-needed addition to the literature on African birds and an essential companion for birders visiting the region.

Order your copy of Birds of the Horn of Africa today!

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New at NHBS: Birds of Pakistan

The eagerly awaited Helm Field Guide for Birds of Pakistan has now arrived at NHBS!

175898Pakistan has a rich diversity of bird habitats, from the dry alpine and moist temperate forests of the western Himalayas to the deserts of Baluchistan and Sind. The Indus basin, where some of the earliest human civilisations were founded, is extensively irrigated and cultivated, providing a variety of man-made habitats. This diversity of habitats supports a wide variety of bird species, and some 669 have been recorded. More than 60 per cent of the country – land lying to the west of the Indus river and south from Peshawar to the Arabian Sea coasts – is Palearctic in character, with a steppic dry montane habitat, and is very different from the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Birds of Pakistan is a successor to the much acclaimed Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by two of the same authors. 93 superb plates are accompanied by a succinct text highlighting identification, voice, habitat, altitudinal range, distribution and status. Covers 670 species including all breeding species, regular visitors and vagrants. The text is on facing pages to the plates, for easy reference and there are distribution maps for every species.

Order your copy of Birds of Pakistan today!

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