20th March 2021 Daniel Roca

All the Birds of the World: A quick review

Having had the opportunity to (humbly) collaborate in the making of this extraordinary book, for what I am happy and grateful, I thought it would be nice to give it a quick review. Now, All the Birds of the World is already a commercial success (and will be for a while, I’m sure), and thousands of people have it in their homes at this point, so in these cases the review would not be needed. Simply because once you have it in your hands you understand the immense value of it and why it is so unique. But for many others, well, here’s the super-short version: it’s a must-have, there’s nothing like it, nor will be for a long time.

All the Birds of the World

What does it offer? It offers you the only way to have in your hands all the birds of the world. Let’s say you love kingfishers. And you know the main European species very well, plus the other two that belong in the Western Palearctic, and the American Belted, which turns up this side of the pond every now and then. These four probably appear in your field guide. Ok, but there are lots of other kingfisher species around the world. With this book you can have them all before your eyes, in one (sometimes more) spreads, and enjoy their beautiful variations, compare them, as well as learn a lot about them. Did you know about the Scaly-breasted Kingfisher? Well, now you do. Do you absolutely love hummingbirds (who doesn’t)? I’m sure you’d find some species you hadn’t heard about before. Are you a local European birder? Sure, you are familiar with the Long-tailed Tit; it’s a relatively common bird. But, do you know the other species of the family Aegithalidae from the Far East? The joy of picking up, maybe randomly, a bird family or genus, and being able to see ALL their species, well arranged and scientifically illustrated, is inexplicable. Never before possible. Of course, nowadays other tools exist, like eBird, that offer global information about birds. But the e-format, having a lot of unique features (like the possibility to listen to bird songs or watching videos), has also a few limitations. One is the difficulty to present all the species of one genus in a single screen for you to contemplate. I think this ability is one of the primary accomplishments of this book. The Handbook gave us for the first time a way to learn about all the avifauna in the world, but the information was presented in another format, better suited for deeper study than casual browsing. The numerous field guides that exist for all the biogeographic regions or countries in the world cover also all the birds, and are the main tool to learn at a local level. But with All the Birds of the World, I believe that for the first time you gain the ability of a true global-scale –yet effortless– learning experience, no longer restricted by any boundaries, about all the different families and genera. It even covers the extinct species!

About the superb illustrations, another thing has to be said. The book doesn’t show only one figure per species. You get to see the differences between males and females plus lots of subspecies variations and flight figures.

Ok, not bad, not bad at all. But is that it? Absolutely not! With All the Birds of the World you get a lot more. For example, this is the first serious attempt (to my knowledge) towards a unified taxonomy. The book treats all the species, and that means taking into account the differences between the four major lists. To this intent, the publishers have come up with a four quarter-circle that visually depicts the differences in taxonomic treatment by the four main lists. Let’s say one species is treated as subspecies by one, and as a subspecies group by another? With the help of a code of colours and letters you can readily see it.

All the Birds of the World

What else? Ok, how about a detailed distribution map, again for ALL the species? Or all the conservation status? How about information on size and altitudinal range? Would you like to have a specific spot to mark the species you’ve seen? It’s all there.

Let’s say you are browsing through the pages and you feel curious about one particular species you never knew existed before. The Wire-tailed Manakin. You inspect the figures and think it would be awesome to see it someday. Judging by the map, you’d have to travel to Colombia or a neighbouring country. You keep getting curious and excited. Just scan the QR-code and jump straight to Cornell’s Birds of the World page of said species, where you’ll be able to see incredible photos and videos, or listen to its song. If you are a subscriber, also a lot of more in-depth information.

In conclusion, the purchase of this book is a no-brainer. There are 11.524 reasons to own it and, for all the explained above, I highly recommend it.

All the Birds of the World

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