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Best bird guides by region...Central and South America

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Old Wednesday 25th April 2012, 01:37   #1
njlarsen
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Best bird guides by region...Central and South America

The problem of suggesting books for a thread like this is that the thread becomes outdated pretty quick. But OK, Garrigues and Dean for Costa Rica, Raffaele et al for West Indies, Kennefick et al for Trinidad and Tobago, and Jaramillo for Chile.

Lars Jonsson for Europe still has a pretty big spot in my heart.

Niels
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Old Thursday 26th April 2012, 12:20   #2
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Mexico (and south to Honduras excluding the moskita coast)- Howell and Webb
Antarctica - Shirihai
Chile, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego - Jaramillo et al.
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Old Thursday 26th April 2012, 15:12   #3
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For Peru I would say "Birds of Peru" by Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O'Neill and the late Theodore A. Parker III

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Old Wednesday 27th June 2012, 13:07   #4
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Best guides available for the following areas IMO:

Ecuador
: The Birds of Ecuador (Vol. II -- Field Guide) by Ridgely & Greenfield (2001). Too large to use in the field (some bind the plates separately), but high quality text, plates, and maps (though maps are separate from plates). Volume I has more extended discussion of Status, Distribution, and Taxonomy, plus introductory materials providing an overview.

(More detailed information on books also recommended above):

Costa Rica: The Birds of Costa Rica by Garrigues and Dean (2007). Nice, compact modern-style field guide, with quality text, plates, and maps altogether. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Stiles and Skutch (1989) is a large, old-style guide but still useful as a reference because it has more extended textual discussion and info than the G&D book.

Mexico and N. Central America (Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, plus): A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America by Howell & Webb (1995). Very high quality and extended textual discussion of ID issues, accurate plates, and maps. But too large for the field, and old-style with maps separate from plates. Some bind the plates separately. Covers countries mentioned plus parts of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Jim

[Edited to make clearer I'm agreeing these are the best available guides even though I mention drawbacks.]
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Old Thursday 28th June 2012, 09:23   #5
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I agree Howell and Webb is not ideal and that the size could be better, but I have used the book on two different trips: it is still the one I would bring, even if it is necessary to have a rucksack to carry it. I strongly believe that for me there is no real alternative at the moment.

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Old Thursday 28th June 2012, 09:37   #6
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Birds of Belize by Jones and Gardner is pretty good.

The area covered is completely enclosed by the Howell and Webb area, however the Belize book has the advantage for europeans etc. of illustrating all the nearctic migrants. And is much smaller.

also useful in other parts of the yucatan peninsula (mexico and northern guatemala).

agree with birds of peru (schulenberg et al) and particularly birds of chile (jaramillo) which is a really excellent field guide in my opinion, with a good taxonomy section at the end although it doesn't really cover the following splits and new species so watch out!

patagonian forest earthcreeper
ticking doradito
puerto montt storm petrel

cheers,
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Old Thursday 28th June 2012, 10:50   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
I agree Howell and Webb is not ideal and that the size could be better, but I have used the book on two different trips: it is still the one I would bring, even if it is necessary to have a rucksack to carry it. I strongly believe that for me there is no real alternative at the moment. Niels
Niels,
I found that the written descriptions in Howell & Webb were of enormous assistance in the field, especially when viewing raptors.
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Old Monday 10th December 2012, 12:15   #8
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Personally, I at times like the Stiles & Skutch guide to Costa Rica better then the Garrigues & Dean. I find some of the latter's drawings to be occasionally not very true-to-life as to what you will actually see in the field (e.g. Red-Billed Pigeon). I recommend acquiring both guides if possible; if you can't and you don't wish to be overburdened by books while on your trip, the Garrigues one is a good choice, but remember that you will only be identifying the birds as opposed to truly learning about their life, subspecies, etc., which is what you will do with the Stiles & Skutch guide.
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Old Monday 10th December 2012, 16:02   #9
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.......Garrigues one is a good choice, but remember that you will only be identifying the birds as opposed to truly learning about their life, subspecies, etc., which is what you will do with the Stiles & Skutch guide.
Since one mostly has trouble keeping the weight of the luggage under the allowed limit, any addional info on the birds must by necessity stay behind for the trip. Thus the other info needs to be studied prior to or after the trip.

It used to be customary for many avid birders to take apart those oversized so called FGs which were rather small handbooks at times. So the two-volume solution for many parts of South America is a sensible way to have all the info, but allowing one to concentrate on the ID part when necessary.
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Old Saturday 12th October 2013, 08:07   #10
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Anyone knows why the Helm FG for Costa Rica has 29 pages more then the Zona Tropical version? Talking about the FG by Garrigues and Dean. TIA.

BTW, does anyone know a website/source where itīs possible to see some plates from the Mexico FG? Would like to buy it but without seeing the content I hesitate. And is there no newer FG for this area since this 1995 print (donīt want to visit the country yet, book is just an upgrading of my ornithological library).

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Old Saturday 12th October 2013, 16:59   #11
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I have the Zona Tropical version, and it has XXVI pages in the introduction before the normal numbering kicks in, and with the normal numbering there are 387 pages and an extra black page at the end. Does that help?

Regarding Mexico, I am not sure which book you are referring to. Those answers I have seen all state that Howell and Web still is the best Mexico book out there, but that you will need to supplement it with a US field guide especially in migration and winter.

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Old Saturday 12th October 2013, 18:54   #12
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I have the Zona Tropical version, and it has XXVI pages in the introduction before the normal numbering kicks in, and with the normal numbering there are 387 pages and an extra black page at the end. Does that help?
Thanks Niels, I thought that the content must be the same because also the front cover is the same. The Iīll go with the Zona Tropical version too.

Quote:
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Regarding Mexico, I am not sure which book you are referring to. Those answers I have seen all state that Howell and Web still is the best Mexico book out there, but that you will need to supplement it with a US field guide especially in migration and winter.
Niels
Correct, thatīs the book I meant (donīt wanted to puzzle you), but because only this one has been mentioned for Mexico I didnīt assume that my question may be confusing. Donīt worry about the US, there are three books in the shelf which are covering this part of North America very fine.

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Old Saturday 12th October 2013, 18:57   #13
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Roman, maybe I could supplement with saying last time I used my Howell and Webb was last year in Yucatan, and I still think it does a very fine job.

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Old Saturday 12th October 2013, 19:02   #14
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Roman, maybe I could supplement with saying last time I used my Howell and Webb was last year in Yucatan, and I still think it does a very fine job.

Niels
Well, ordered it also (christmas time is coming "soon" )
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Old Wednesday 16th October 2013, 13:50   #15
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BTW, does anyone know a website/source where itīs possible to see some plates from the Mexico FG? Would like to buy it but without seeing the content I hesitate. And is there no newer FG for this area since this 1995 print (donīt want to visit the country yet, book is just an upgrading of my ornithological library).
For what it's worth, I have made some internal scans for this field guide.

http://www.nhbs.com/_bkfno_28905.html
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Old Thursday 17th October 2013, 13:06   #16
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For what it's worth, I have made some internal scans for this field guide.

http://www.nhbs.com/_bkfno_28905.html
Thanks, much appreciated!
Viewing the plates I know why itīs still considered the best guide for that region
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Old Thursday 17th October 2013, 13:21   #17
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Thanks, much appreciated!
Viewing the plates I know why itīs still considered the best guide for that region
And don't overlook the quality of the text

Niels
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Old Sunday 27th April 2014, 13:49   #18
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How about Cuba?

Is the West Indies field guide sufficient or would people recommend the Cuba specific guide?
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Old Monday 22nd September 2014, 23:31   #19
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Alf,
somehow overlooked this question. I do not know the answer, but the West Indies book by Raffaele has done a fine job elsewhere I have been. There is also a dedicated Cuba book that might have some better info on relative abundance.

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Old Friday 2nd January 2015, 14:08   #20
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Regarding Cuba, the Garrido/Kirkconnell Field Guide is a great book to have when birding in Cuba. It does, however, suffer from several serious usability issues for a field guide. It is also getting a bit dated.
1. It is rather large for a field guide, considering the number of species covered.
2. The inclusion of vagrant species in the main body of text causes it to be too long. I counted 80 species (including two extinct) that could have been treated separately at the end of the main text. The extinct species even have their own colour plate.
3. The index should also have been divided into three separate indices, English, Spanish and scientific names. The current index is very difficult to use.
4. The reverse side of each colour plate is wasted with a greyscale copy of the facing colour plate. This has resulted in the book having double the number of plates actually required.
5. The plates numbers are tucked away on the inner margin, making it impossible to find an illustration in a hurry. I renumbered my copy on the outer edges.
6. The text on the plate does not give the page number of the corresponding text for each species, so a trip to the index is required again.

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Old Friday 26th June 2015, 21:14   #21
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More about South America?

I think this thread has so far mostly concentrated on Central America only. With some few exceptions. So what do people think are the best books for the South? It used to be, there was virtually nothing, then came the early versions of the Colombia and Venezuela guides. In 2000, there was still nothing for further south. Now there are books for Ecuador, Peru, a number of possibilities for Brazil, a compact book for Chile, and an antiquated - but better than nothing - one for Argentina. Which, by the way proved surprisingly useful, much more so than the van Perlo Illustrated Checklist for all of southern South America.
One major problem is the "heftiness" of many of these books. The authors often created some kinds of handbooks instead of true FGs. Even in the case when they split the work into what they called a Fieldguide and a Companion Volume.
Another problem is that some books have been promised for decades (literally in the case of Argentina), thus blocking others to even get started.
Brazil used to be pretty much "terra incognita" before a whole lot of books "suddenly" emerged. Some for certain regions only, some for the whole country. The only country now that still does not have a printed FG is Bolivia. Though there has been a CD ROM around for a long time. But that's not very practical in the field, as far as I'm concerned.

To me, the van Perlo FG to the Birds of Brazil would be the type of book we'd need for each country. Minus some of the excess blank rims that make that book larger than it needs to be.

The countries between Venezuela and Brazil are covered by the hefty FG Birds of Northern South America. Are there slimmer books for that restricted area of Surinam and the Guyanas? There is, of course also the FG for Trinidad and Tobago that has been around for a long time.
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Old Friday 26th June 2015, 21:38   #22
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I think this thread has so far mostly concentrated on Central America only.............
Adding to the Central American topic in this overview thread: the Costa Rica book by Garrigues and Dean has since come out in a revised and much improved second edition.

And the similarly patterned Birds of Panama FG by Angehr and Dean has not been mentioned here yet. It's a great book as well, covering over 900 species, usually with fine range maps.
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Old Friday 26th June 2015, 23:11   #23
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Robert,
I am currently planning my trip to Ecuador in August. I have both the older Ridgely and Greenfield and the "fieldbook" (McMullan and Navarrete). While I think the drawings are mostly better in the first of these, It is also 4x the bulk, and having updated ranges (in the second book) might offset that advantage. I have tried using both for photos here in BF, so that is what I build my impression off. I additionally hope that the somewhat nature-oriented places we are going to stay would have a copy of the older book if I come across something that I cannot handle with the newer book. (Some thread here on BF says that a similar size fieldbook is available for Colombia, with relatively poor drawings)

There is talk about making extracts of the BNSA (Restall) book for Columbia and/or Ecuador. I have the similar extract for Trinidad and Tobago where it works well (as well as for the ABC islands), but there certainly is a certain lack of "like to life" in the original, which I think would be a detriment for areas with a high birdlife diversity.

I have yet to hear about a good book for much of Bolivia.

Some people still swear to the Ridgely and Tudor: Songbirds volume and the non-passerines volume by Erize, Mata, Rumboll (in some order).

Niels

PS: I cannot stress enough that the Chile book by Jaramillo is excellent.
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Old Sunday 28th June 2015, 17:53   #24
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Adding to the Central American topic in this overview thread: the Costa Rica book by Garrigues and Dean has since come out in a revised and much improved second edition. And the similarly patterned Birds of Panama FG by Angehr and Dean has not been mentioned here yet. It's a great book as well, covering over 900 species, usually with fine range maps.
A new addition to the collection of Central American guides is the bilingual A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua (Martinez-Sanchez, Chavarria-Duriaux & Munoz, illustrations by Augusto Silva Gomez), a truly bilingual guide (Spanish & English) issued by a German publisher. The species accounts suffer a bit in comparison to those found in the comparably sized Costa Rica & Panama guides you mention, but they work well enough in conjunction with the nice illustrations. Each account includes a description of the habitat and range within (but no map), status, and distinctive physical characteristics. Very few descriptions of vocalizations or mechanical sounds. The introductory chapters offer brief but informative overviews of topography and habitats, conservation and birdwatching in Nicaragua.

I suspect that most birders traveling in Nicaragua (and perhaps Honduras) could manage without any supplemental guide.

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Old Sunday 28th June 2015, 19:59   #25
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To me, the van Perlo FG to the Birds of Brazil would be the type of book we'd need for each country. Minus some of the excess blank rims that make that book larger than it needs to be.
Rather than van Perlo style guides for each country, I'd prefer guides along the lines of the Wildlife Conservation Society's "Birds of Brazil: the Pantanal & Cerrado.” In other words, guides with great plates and detailed text that are nevertheless easily portable because they are limited in scope. I think the Schulenberg et al. Peru guide could have benefited from this approach; it could have been split into two guides: one for Amazonia and one for the rest of Peru. It is not as bulky as some other South American guides, but still less than ideal. (Unfortunately, we have yet to see a hint of any further volumes in that series for Brazil since that one was published in 2010.)

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The countries between Venezuela and Brazil are covered by the hefty FG Birds of Northern South America. Are there slimmer books for that restricted area of Surinam and the Guyanas?
There supposedly has been a guide to the Guianas in the works since at least 2012, but no idea if it will ever become a reality. There are only about 30 species in Guyana that are not in Brazil or Venezuela, respectively. So guides to those countries (i.e. Hilty and van Perlo) provide pretty good coverage. And there is a Field Checklist to the Birds of Guyana that provides status and habitat information and is available as a free download.

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