Birds of Chile: a photo guide

Published on 17 January 2019 in Book reviews

By Steve N. G. Howell and Fabrice Schmitt

Princeton University Press, 2018; bk, 240pp; many colour photographs; ISBN 978-0-691-16739-8

£24.00 buy it from the BB Bookshop

With a country checklist of around 540 species and an interesting selection of 14 endemics, Chile has historically not received as much publicity as it deserves. That started to change in 2003 with Alvaro Jaramillo’s excellent Birds of Chile field guide. This new photographic field guide adds a new dimension to the information that is available by using montage-style photo imagery to offer a selection of photos showing birds in different plumages and positions. Around 1,300 images of almost 400 species (mostly taken by the authors) are used on the same page as a brief description and indication of range. No distribution maps are included, so you’ll want to use this in conjunction with Jaramillo’s book. The species order has been slightly altered in some cases to allow groups such as swifts and hirundines to be brought together. Just over 60 vagrants are excluded, which makes sense. There is a section at the back in which 41 rarely seen species are dealt with briefly. Most of these are only occasionally seen, or are of questionable status, but this includes three of Chile’s endemics: Masafuera Rayadito Aphrastura masafuerae, Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant Anairetes fernandezianus and Juan Fernandez Firecrown Sephanoides fernandensis. I’m all in favour of ditching the dross – but don’t ditch your endemics even if they are rarely seen! This is a handy book that packs a lot of information into a relatively small space.

Keith Betton