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Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds, an Illustrated and Photographic Guide authored by Tomasz Cofta. (1 Viewer)

Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
Mine came yesterday. Flicked through it briefly and it looks pretty good. Though whether I will ever want help identifying things like Western Bonelli's Warbler in flight is debatable. A lot of the photos are of limited value due to being too small or not very sharp. My only other criticism so far is that a bit more labelling/annotation on the plates could have been useful: eg one photo of a Stock Dove shows a distinct pale bar across the undertail but there is no mention of why.

Mark Newsome

Born to seawatch...
I got a copy last week. It's a bit of an odd book, some excellent info contained, but there are some sections that I find myself just skipping over (eg very similar warblers). I guess it depends a bit on your location and the type of species you're going to encounter as to what parts of the book are going to have most value. It does a really good job of describing the habits and and jizz of the species, so often the text is of more use than the photos. But overall, its a book I've been constantly dipping into, as its so unlike any regular field guide. The QR code link to flight calls is very useful and is now kept as a 'Favourite' on my mobile. The calls in conjunction with the sonograms are a real bonus for my nocmig activities and I don't have this combination easily available elsewhere.



Stuck in Dundee.....
Got my copy during the week. Most frustrating thing for me is that it is a slightly larger format than my other Wildguides books....which means it doesn't fit on my bookshelf where they are. Otherwise it looks to be much as I expected and will hopefully be pressed into service during Spring/Autumn movements this year.

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Having been convinced I pre-ordered a copy when one hadn't arrived I checked with the two online booksellers I generally use ..... both denied all knowledge of any order. Another senior moment I fear. Hopefully, one will appear in the next couple of days .....


Well-known member
Just received it today and leaved through a bit. Things I noticed: great introduction with explanation and graphics about flocking and flight patterns. The section about flight calls and spectrograms is fantastic too. Pictures per species are great as well, seems like they're flying over the pages. Minor I find, as pointed out above, the lack of markings alongside the flight pictures to point out noticeable feather pattern characteristics, maybe even comparing to similar species. Now one always has to read the accompanying text for that, the illustrations could've offered more clarification that way.
Overall a great book, different than everything before, and absolutely filling a niche which I've always found lacking. Will dive in and it will serve well.


Well-known member
I received my copy and had a look.
Very good book, one which opens a whole new perspective of IDing small flying songbirds. I liked the introduction, which describes in detail features of bird apperance, flight mode, flocking and voice, as well as advises what to look for. The main text lists all the needed songbird species. Here the Tomasz meticulous attention to detail comes to play. Details of shape and appearance of every species are analyzed, picking distinguishing characters of all the small drab (and not drab) birds. And the book does not overreach, saying that identification is not possible in many cases, and advising e.g. to look for contrasts not colors.

For me, the book will be mostly of use for identifying common flying birds, for example picking a Brambling in a flock of Chaffinches overhead, or identifying a flying songbird on a mountain hike as an Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Linnet or something else. But, no doubt, this book will lead to many more vagrant passerines being recorded in the following years.

A QR code to flight calls is useful. However, I expected rather more, like easy ordering the species by common name, taxonomy and the page of the book. Maybe there is more after installing an external app, which I did not do. A link to bulk-download the call files would be handy - so we don't need to rely on the internet connection in the field and/or abroad. One possible error: page 375, photo in second row from top, right seems not to show a male White-throated Robin but some chat with a rufous tail.

John Cantelo

Well-known member
This book is undoubtedly a remarkable tour de force by Tomaz Cofta (although he warmly thanks Andy Swash, Rob Still, and others in his acknowledgments this still feels like a very personal project). It's nothing less than an attempt to reset our approach to flight ID in part by codifying those subtle hints that we subconsciously use despite often being unaware of the fact. Whether everyone is an acute enough observer to pick them all up in the field (and I'm certainly not) is another issue but the important thing is that the ideas are out on display and open to all to try. I find the almost porcelain-like diagrammatic clarity of the artwork hypnotisingly attractive (despite finding many of the illustrations rather too dark). The only other artist that who paid such attention to birds in flight is Peter Hayman (a neglected genius of illustrating how birds appear in the field). As others have noted the introduction is a 'must-read' section of the book.

I am surprised, though, by the selection of species covered since this shows what seems to be almost a distaste for birds found on Mediterranean islands. Omitting reference to the 'Mediterranean Flycatcher" is understandable (although I found those on Majorca could be strikingly pale in flight). However, the omission of the badius race of Woodchat Shrike, Corsican Citril Finch, Balearic & Mamora's Warblers and Corsican Nuthatch is odd. This is in sharp contrast to the inclusion several far more marginal European species (e.g. White-throated Robin). As a devotee of Iberian birding, I was disappointed to find no mention of Iberian Green Woodpecker and similarly disappointed when I looked further into the section on woodpeckers to find no illustration of alpinus Three-toed Woodpecker or any mention of lilfordi White-backed Woodpecker (the bill in the artwork for the latter also seems to have been clipped off). Whilst I understand why they're not used I also missed distribution maps particularly since there would clearly be space for them. I'm sure that there may be further minor lacunae awaiting to be found by ornitho-pedants but this shouldn't distract from the fact that this is an interesting, useful, and, in some ways groundbreaking book. If you've not got it on your 'most wanted' list then add it!

Two final asides - in the back under 'Further Information' the forthcoming "Europe's Birds" is described as this book's "companion volume". Does that mean that the book will share the slightly larger format of this book (compared to 'Britain's Birds') to help shoehorn in all those extra species? Or that the guide will have fewer illustrations of passerines in flight? My second observation is that a field guide to the identification non-passerine birds in flight or select families (BoPs & seabirds come to mind) by the same team would be very interesting.

John Cantelo

Well-known member
The book features in today's "Self Isolating Bird Club" video (
at about 20 mins & again towards the end). Chris Packham obviously really liked the book and made the excellent point that the diagrammatic illustrations were a really useful help in identifying a bird from its feathers.

Essex Tern

I have tried the Kindle app version and unfortunately lots of artefacts on the illustrations (in differing places depending on device) so have now received a refund - a shame - hopefully it may be improved in the near future, although not sure how I would know...... so if anyone does get the Kindle version going forwards I would be interested to hear if all is fixed. I attach a screenshot showing an example for reference.


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Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Is there a Northern European bias in this book? I was taking a look at the thrushes pages in the above post and despite all Siberian vagrants are illustrated there is no sign of either Blue Rock Trush or Common Rock Thrush.
Hello Rafael,
there is one in German:
Vogelzug und Vogelbestände in Mitteleuropa: 30 Jahre Beobachtung des Tageszugs am Randecker Maar (Deutsch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 1. Februar 2001 by Wulf Gatter.

The ID-part of this book has been published here: http://www.limicola.de/downloads.html

Wulf Gatter: Kennzeichen am Tage ziehender Singvögel. Aus: Limicola Jahrgang 2002, Heft 4


Bah humbug
The bias of the book is towards birds on migration. So largely sedentary S Europe species are not covered, it states as much in the beginning of the book.

(I cracked and spent out on the first new birding book I've bought since the Collins came out ;-) )


Stealth Birder


Active member
It is an interesting book and will undoubtedly assist with flight identification of many birds.

I like the book, but at the same time I am a bit confused about the purpose - is it the definitive reference for those studying diurnal migration, or is it a guide to all ID features that can be seen in flight. If the latter then I am surprised that it does not cover any of the differences in tail patterns of the warblers. It states that Western and Eastern Orphean Warbler are practically inseparable in flight - probably so, but wasn't Britain's only Eastern clinched on a flight photo showing the tail pattern? The comments on Naumann's and Dusky thrush align with the idea that this book is for vis mig. identification, with the comment that the 'two species [are] inseparable unless coloration seen' - these are two birds I see fairly regularly in China, and (at least for bright birds) colour is not normally difficult to detect, as they dart around the local park, diving into patches of cover. The same comment is made about Black-throated and Red-throated Thrush coloration, but red in the tail can be a clincher for making sure you are not looking at a hybrid.

But if this is a book for migration watchers, are the pages (and particularly the plates) for the for phylloscopus warblers a bit optimistic, and why do most of the photos of warblers, look like birds darting between clumps of vegetation. I suppose it is quite hard to get photos of a phyllosc on migration!

If the book is targeted at for serious birders, looking to sharpen their vis mig capabilities, then I can't help but think that the book could have been a lot shorter and more focused. Why two pages on Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Hoopoe etc. which are all pretty easy to ID and don't need the space. Also why include the species stated to be non-migratory like Iberian Magpie.

I am sure I will enjoy studying the sections on Pipits, Buntings, Thrushes, Larks, Finches and the like, but may gloss over some of the nice pictures (but from strange perspectives) of quite a few species.


Jon Bryant

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
But if this is a book for migration watchers, are the pages (and particularly the plates) for the for phylloscopus warblers a bit optimistic, and why do most of the photos of warblers, look like birds darting between clumps of vegetation. I suppose it is quite hard to get photos of a phyllosc on migration!


Jon Bryant
I think it's highly optimistic in regard to the capabilities (and eyesight!) of most, average birders.


Any further thoughts about this publication now it’s been out a little while? Im very tempted, as the majority of flying passerines pass me by unidentifed currently!


Stealth Birder
Any further thoughts about this publication now it’s been out a little while? Im very tempted, as the majority of flying passerines pass me by unidentifed currently!
Get it. It's genuinely very good. No book is perfect, even the Collins guide had it's flaws, but you will enjoy it and learn from it.



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