The Birds of the Falkland Islands

Published on 30 November 2017 in Book reviews

By Robin Woods

BOC Checklist Series 25, 2017; pbk, 288pp; 32 plates with 64 colour photos and colour maps

ISBN 978-0-9522886-6-4, £29.99

This is the most comprehensive reference list of the birds of the Falkland Islands published to date. It is the latest addition to the BOC Checklist Series (formerly the BOU Checklists) and describes the Falklands status, distribution and the current taxonomy of 259 species, comprising the 205 species confirmed on the archipelago plus 54 for which records are considered unconfirmed. It is worth emphasising that this book is not an identification guide, but is a detailed and meticulously researched reference avifauna with few pictures.

It begins with a set of short, interesting chapters covering geography, climate, weather, ecological habitats, human impacts on birds, ornithological history, bird conservation and palaeornithology. We then hit the systematic species list, which is extremely thorough and forms the bulk of the book. To round off, seven appendices list contextual and reference information, for example place-names and locations, important bird areas, and the locations of archived study material. For a list-structured book, the text is surprisingly readable throughout.

The Falkland Islands are an exciting location for birding. Most people are well aware that the archipelago has a suite of resident species with special charm, for example Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris and five species of penguin, including King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus. It is much less well known that an equally special feature of Falklands birding is vagrancy, something that this book makes clear. Of the islands’ 205 confirmed species, 55 are residents, two are former breeders, 29 are regular migrants, but 119 are vagrants (having worked on the islands, I was staggered by the diversity of vagrants that are listed). Vagrants from all over South America, the South Atlantic, the Southern Ocean and North America have occurred, from ground doves to grebes, finches to flamingos, kingbirds to caracaras and petrels to penguins, including Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri. Birding visitors to the Falklands can expect to see some wonderful resident species, but they should definitely be on the lookout for something exotic and unexpected.

Will Miles