British Birds of Prey. By Leslie Brown. Collins 'New Naturalist', London, 1976. 400 pages; 34 m a p s ; 11 figures; 23 tables; eight pages of appendix tables; 40 black-and-white photographs. £6.00.
Aficionado and professional alike have waited a long time for this book. It is now 20 years since Volume V of D. A. Bannerman's The Birds of the British Isles appeared and, since then, no comprehensive work on the British diurnal birds of prey has been attempted. How strange that it should have been left to a Scot resident in Africa for most of his life to have filled the gap; yet how fitting, for Leslie Brown is not only a world authority, but a tremendous enthusiast, with a gift for lively writing, in which solid scientific fact and comment are interlaced with vividly descriptive anecdote. His labours have been herculean. He has flown back and forth, sought all the obvious and not so obvious fountains of knowledge, researched the published literature, extracted much unpublished material from a host of sources and drawn on his own deep understanding and experience. The result is a massive assemblage which is almost wholly satisfying. Convention is generally followed: the first three chapters cover, respectively, the characteristics of the Falconiformes, the British species, and classification and field identification; they are followed by 15 chapters, each of which is devoted to a so-called resident species, with the White-tailed Eagle--as represented by the imports on the island of Rhum--included optimistically.