(International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)
This organisation is responsible for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
, which provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on both plants and animals that have been globally evaluated using the associated categories and criteria
. Also see the summarised introduction
on my associated ‘collections’ gallery.
for the European Red List
Although I’m not featuring this particular book like some of those below, The World’s Rarest Birds
by WILDGuides is a tremendous book to own if you want to know more about the 500+ bird species currently classified as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered'. It’s a sumptuous, large format, beautifully produced book, brimming full of details, charts, information and superb photos.
It would have been very easy to just feature bird guides in this section as they form by far the largest part of my natural history library. I do have a few general animal books and, although they have been useful, they certainly don’t get referred to as often as my bird identification guides and, as such, I don’t see much merit in featuring any of them here. However, the following is an exception, because if you have an interest in African wildlife then this is a book you’ll find very interesting indeed :
Beat about the Bush - Mammals
Written by Trevor Carnaby
Published by Jacana Media, 2010 - softback, medium format, 374 pages (ISBN : 978-1-77009-240-2)
Although first published in 2006, my particular copy is the 2010 expanded version that covers the subject in a much more comprehensive manner than the original. I remember seeing a very worn copy of this book on the dashboard of our land rover on our first ever safari and have seen guides using it ever since. This is not a book about species identification, but a bush guide to just about everything else about the mammals you’ll see on safari in Africa. It’s literally crammed full of useful and interesting facts, laid out as questions and answers.
For example, ‘why are lions so aggressive at kills?’ or ‘how long can hippos stay underwater?’ or ‘what defence and enemies do elephants have?’ and ‘what can tracks tell us?’ Lots of information, plus taxonomic charts, name origins and a useful glossary.
BIRDS - GENERAL
WILDGuides - Britain’s Birds
By Rob Hume, Hugh Harrop and David Tipling together with Robert Still and Andy Swash of WILDGuides
Princeton University Press, 2016 - stitched softback, medium format, 560 pages (ISBN : 978-0-691-15889-1)
A comprehensive and current identification guide stacked full of information about every species ever recorded in Britain and Ireland. Supported by 3000+ photos the guide looks closely at each species, clearly showing male and female birds and different plumages. For each species there’s a small distribution map, plus further information regarding population, habitat and status. Whilst I supplement the guide with my RSPB Handbook of British Birds
and the Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe
, I find it more far more user-friendly and informative.
Continuing with the general identification of different bird species :
The Helm Guide to Bird Identification
By Keith Vinicombe, Alan Harris and Laurel Tucker, produced by Christopher Helm
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014 - softback, medium format, 398 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4081-3035-3)
This identification guide concentrates on ‘confusion species’, grouping and comparing those birds that have strong similarities. Personally I find it better than the more general Crossley ID Guide
although, in fairness, that book has also been very useful on occasions.
I’ve also recently acquired Bird ID Insights
by Dominic Couzens and, although I’ve only had need to refer to it on a couple of occasions so far, I believe that for certain species it could prove as useful, if not better, than the Helm Guide.
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014 - hardback, small to medium format, 272 pages (ISBN 978-1-4729-0983-1)
BIRDS - GROUPED or FAMILY SPECIES
Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America
A Helm Identification Guide, written by Sébastien Reeber, and produced by Christopher Helm
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2015 - hardback, medium format, 656 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4729-1234-3)
A comprehensive and current guide to all the different species and subspecies of ducks, geese and swans found across the Holarctic ecozones. The guide includes detailed information, colour plates and photos of over eighty species, including twenty species of ’seaduck’. In my opinion this is by far the best guide of its type, and another essential reference book for anyone that wants to know more about these species.
Prior to purchasing the above I relied on Wildfowl of the World
by Malcolm Ogilvie and Steve Young. It’s a rather dated photographic handbook, which covers 236 species and subspecies, but is still very useful on occasions particularly in respect of neotropical wildfowl species not covered by the newer book.
New Holland Publishers, 1998 - hardback, large format, 175 pages (ISBN : 1-85368-625-5)
There’s also a website called wildfowl photography
that I've found useful on occasions. I believe there's some connection with the British Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
(WWT) centres. It’s worth a look if you want quick information or are trying to identify a particular species of waterfowl, or indeed a few other species like coot and moorhen.
The next group of species based on the layout and order of my ‘collections’ photo sets would be the long-legged waterbirds such as herons, egrets, ibises and spoonbills. However, apart from a book I have entitled Herons & Egrets of the World
, which is a bit dated now, I tend to rely on either specific area or country field guides, or internet resources like good old ‘Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
’. Additionally, if you want more general online information on heron species, there’s a specialist IUCN-SSC group called Heron Conservation
that’s well worth looking at.
Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere
Written by Richard Chandler and, although not obvious from the cover, it's another Helm guidebook
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013 - softback, medium format, 448 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4081-0790-4)
The description on the back states that the book includes detailed text and range maps, accompanied by 850 carefully selected colour photographs, providing coverage of virtually all subspecies, ages and plumages in the region. I’ve developed a real interest in shorebirds as my ‘collections’ photo gallery will show and, consequently, sought to purchase the best guide available. I acquired the reprinted version of this book back in 2013 and have regularly referred to it ever since.
Written by Marianne Taylor and with photographs by David Tipling
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014 - hardback, large format, 240 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4729-0901-5)
This is a really beautifully produced and very informative book that covers all the seabird species that have bred in and around the British Isles, plus others that regularly or occasionally visit our waters. It’s broken down into nine sections, entitled ‘seaducks’, ‘divers and grebes’, ‘tubenoses’, ‘gannets, cormorants and relatives’, ‘phalaropes’, ‘skuas’, 'gulls', 'terns' and 'auks'. It’s more of an informative coffee-table type book than an identification guide and, as such, is one of those books that you can either read in detail or just flick through when the moment takes you.
Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America
A Helm Identification Guide, written by Klaus Malling Olsen, and produced by Christopher Helm
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2003 - hardback, medium format, 608 pages (ISBN : 978-0-7136-7087-5)
Whilst this book is generally recognised as one of the best specialist guides currently available it has become a bit outdated, because even though it was originally published at a critical time in the development of gull taxonomy, further changes have been made. As such, the book is due to be superseded around mid-2017 by a new book entitled Gulls of the World
. It’s by the same author and, as can be seen from the title, will cover all of the world’s gull species this time rather than just those seen in the northern hemisphere. I’ve pre-ordered my copy via the NHBS
(Natural History Book Service).
RSPB British Birds of Prey
Written by Marianne Taylor and with photographs by Stig Frode Olsen
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014 - hardback, large format, 224 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4081-2849-7)
This RSPB book is the same size and format as the previously featured one on Seabirds. The only difference here is that the book covers less birds, as we only have 15 species of native raptor and 5 species of owl, which means that each can be dealt with separately rather than looking at them as groups of similar species. The book tells the story of each of these birds - their past, present and future. It’s another lovely coffee-table type book full of interesting facts and beautiful photos.
Raptors of the World
Written by James Ferguson-Lees and David Christie, and produced by Christopher Helm
A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 2007 - softback, medium format, 320 pages (ISBN : 978-0-7136-6957-2)
Featuring 118 colour plates showing 338 species both perched and in flight, this field guide covers all of the world’s eagles, harriers, hawks, buzzards, kites, falcons and vultures. Each of the plates includes between 10-20 top quality illustrations rather than photographs, with each species having its own write-up with information on habitat, distribution, size and identification of both adult and juvenile birds. In conjunction with country or area field guides I’ve used this book a lot over the past few years when trying to accurately identify some of the species I’ve photographed across Africa or South America particularly.
Online there’s the Eagle Directory
website, which is well worth a visit if you have a particular interest in that group of raptors, and also the Kruger Park Raptor Guide
for African birds of prey, including owls, albeit this site understandably concentrates more on the South African species.
Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers
A Helm Identification Guide written by C Hilary Fry, Kathie Fry and Alan Harris
A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 1999 - softback, medium format, 324 pages (ISBN : 0-7136-5206-3)
I generally rely on specific country or area field guides for general species like these as, unlike my four main categories (waterbirds, shorebirds, seabirds and raptors), I simply don’t photograph enough different species like these to warrant buying a specialist book. However, as we had a trip planned to the Gambia primarily to photograph these particular birds, I thought it would be good to have a book that covered all these related species. The book includes good quality colour plates and plenty of written information on 87 species of kingfisher, 24 species of bee-eater and 12 species of roller.
: I’ve featured ten books here about species and have referred to another seven, so I’m not extending the list any further at present. However, if I happen to purchase one of particular interest in the future, or indeed replace one with a newer version as I will with my gulls guide, then I will of course update the page as appropriate.