Burridge’s Multilingual Dictionary of Birds of the World. Volume II – English, edited by John T. Burridge

Published on 13 November 2012 in Book reviews

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008; hbk, 253pp; ISBN 1-84718-517-7; Subbuteo code M21408, £39.99

This is one of a multivolume set of books for which the eventual aim is to provide a comprehensive dictionary, in about 50 languages, of the vernacular names of the approximately 10,000 species of bird in the world. With minimal introduction, the bulk of this volume is a long list of bird names. Each species gets a unique reference number, followed by its English name, taken primarily from the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (Dickinson 2003), with names from other mainstream sources such as The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (Clements 2007) listed when these differ significantly. A quick search finds 19 volumes currently available: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latin (sic, presumably scientific), Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. Each gives the vernacular names of every species in that language, indexed by their unique numbers for referencing across volumes. At £40 a time, these books are massively overpriced, though presumably only libraries are going to consider purchasing the full set – most individual ornithologists can restrict themselves to ‘Latin’ and the languages of interest to them. That is, if they need the books at all; much of the information is available on the web and a glance at samples of the non-English volumes betrays a heavy reliance on the freely available Bird Studies Canada ‘Avibase’ (http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org). Publishing in book form prevents flexible updating of taxonomy, inclusion of many alternative vernacular synonyms, or any reaction to the publication of the IOC World Bird Names (Gill & Wright: http://www.worldbirdnames.org). Frankly, this type of list is what the internet was made for, but some ornithologists might find the books to be a useful reference.

Martin Collinson

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