The Atlas of Australian Birds. By M. Blakers, S. J. J. F. Davies and P. N. Reilly. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1984. 738 pages; 648 line-drawings; over 650 maps. £45.00.  I have nothing but praise for this magnificent book produced by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. The RAOU recipe went something as follows. Take the work of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, the BTO/IWC Breeding Bird Atlas project and the European Ornithological Atlas Committee's guidelines as examples. Add the necessary modifications for dealing with a much less well-known avifauna in a vastly larger and much less densely populated area. Organise efficiently the available manpower, and the computer analysis of the results. Design the book to the same high standard as the Poyser-inspired Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Britain and Ireland. Find over 30 industrial sponsors and a sympathetic publisher. The result: a giant book (2.5 kg) summarising all the records for an entire continent, with clarity and a delightfully crisp presentation. The maps, with red symbols on a black outline, display the results perfectly. The texts, together with an evocative line-drawing of the species, take up the rest of the space on each page; the length is sufficient to give enough background information on habitat, past distribution, and so on, to interest the previously ignorant non-Australian birdwatcher. An atlas spanning an entire continent, especially one so sparsely populated by human beings as Australia, has to use slightly different techniques from one covering a tiny portion of the world with a dense population, such as Britain and Ireland. Whereas we started with a breeding bird atlas and have subsequently gone on to carry out work on a wintering bird bird atlas, this Australian project ran throughout the 12 months for each of its five years (1977-81). 

Volume: 
Issue 12
Start Page: 
640
Authors: 
RSharrock, J. T
Redman, N
Display Image: 

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