I can still recall my excitement at the arrival of Birds of the Indian Subcontinent in 1998. At nearly 900 pages, that book was immense and has since been rehashed many times to create cut-down versions on the birds of Bhutan and the Eastern Himalayas, Nepal, Northern and Southern India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka… and now Bangladesh. For this book, Paul Thompson joins the team and, having been based in Dhaka since the 1990s, he knows Bangladesh better than any other British birder.
The book follows the typical format of text facing plates, with around six species per double-page spread. The taxonomy follows HBW/BirdLife and 705 species are featured. Of these, 534 are residents or migrants and get the full treatment, with at least one detailed illustration (more in the case of some non-passerines), a description of plumage and voice, useful tips on occurrence and habitat, and additional information on alternative names and taxonomy if needed. All of these benefit from an excellent colour distribution map. An additional 24-page section at the back deals with 178 vagrants, each of which has a much smaller illustration along with the description but no map. The vast majority of the illustrations have been taken from the original Indian Subcontinent book, which was the work of 19 artists. Wherever possible, the correct races for Bangladesh have been depicted and a small number of additional illustrations have been created.
There is a 21-page section on the country itself, highlighting key areas to visit and the typical habitats and the birds that they support. I suspect that for many purchasing this book Bangladesh will be a completely new country to visit. Technically, Bangladesh has no endemic bird species, but there is currently nowhere else in the world where Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus can be seen, so the focus on Bangladesh is likely to increase over the coming years. Let’s hope that the conservation authorities can protect these birds.