Collins Bird Guide 2nd Edition

Authors Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström, HarperCollins 2009, ISBN 978-0-00-726726-2, HB, ISBN 978-0-00-726814-6, SB

There are many revisions to the first edition due largely to taxonomic changes and this has affected the treatment of wildfowl, shearwaters, large gulls, thrushes (including the wheatears), warblers, flycatchers, shrikes and finches. There are no less than 41 new species, 33 of which are the result of taxonomic changes, and several subspecies have received more detailed treatment. This has been achieved by the addition of 24 new spreads, the reworking of many other plates and the incorporation of new illustrations. This means the book has 50 more pages, but it is still reasonably light in weight. The text has also been extensively revised to take account of most of the recent taxonomic research, resulting in the new order of the families at the beginning of the book, which now starts with swans, geese and ducks followed by grouse, pheasants, etc. Only then come the loons (divers), grebes, seabirds, etc., formerly placed first. We thought this would take some getting used to but after using the book for the last 2 weeks the new order has become second nature.

Naturally we went straight to the sumptuous plates and pored over the numerous improvements. Some of the most noticeable and enjoyable are:

A selection of vagrant wildfowl has been inserted. The Herring Gull complex has been dealt with in a succinct and straightforward way in line with current thinking. Birders who struggle with Herring, Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls will find the picture much clearer.

The old Isabelline Shrike is split into Isabelline & Turkestan Shrikes, which are on the same plate as Red-backed and Brown Shrikes. The new paintings of the “commoner” American vagrant passerines are excellent and a vast improvement on the previous ones.

The wheatears have been extensively revised and the various splits have given rise to unfamiliar names such as Seebohm’s, Maghreb and Kurdish Wheatears. Other strange names include Isabelline Warbler for the old Western Olivaceous Warbler - not really comfortable with that one. Warbler updates include comprehensive coverage of the various chiffchaffs.

Red-breasted Flycatcher has been split into Red-breasted & Taiga Flycatchers. We are sure that this will lead to more of the latter being identified in the UK, hopefully in Norfolk!

The Accidentals section (species recorded only 1 –3 times) has been re-vamped and even includes the Kent Tufted Puffin!

Collins Bird Guide
By Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, Dan Zetterström, Peter J. Grant

All said and done this guide is by its very nature a work in progress and this edition is really just the latest update. It is not perfect and never could be as birders, ornithologists, etc seldom agree on everything, foe example the on going debate on the ‘large ‘ Grey Shrikes. A minor criticism would be inaccuracies concerning the UK status of several species. Audouin’s Gull, Black Lark and Masked Shrike are not updated as recent vagrants to the UK but Oriental Cuckoo is still noted as an extremely rare vagrant despite no accepted records. There is also confusion regarding which race/species of Houbara Bustard has occurred in the UK. Whilst drooling over the plates the only typo that ww noticed was the caption Nile “Walley” Sunbird. The bird ‘topography’ diagrams on the end plates have been accidentally omitted but are apparently available as a download from the web.

These criticisms are trivial and we feel churlish to even mention them. Suffice to say that if you have the first edition you will want, need (?) the second. If you haven’t either then what are you waiting for?