Finches and Sparrows: an identification guide. By Peter Clement. Illustrated by Alan Harris & John Davis. Christopher Helm Publishers, London, 1993. 500 pages; 73 colour plates; 44 line-drawings; over 280 distribution maps. ISBN 0-7136-8017-2. £29.99. This is another of the identification guides which are fast becoming almost a classic series from the Christopher Helm stable, and it keeps up the generally very high standard. It covers all the true finches of the Fringillidae (i.e. Fringillinae and Carduelinae), the waxbills and allies of the Estrildidae and the true sparrows of the Passeridae--in all, 256 finches and 34 sparrows. As are previous such volumes, this book is solely an identification guide. There is a short section in each species account devoted to status, habitat and behaviour, but this is aimed purely at where you can find the bird, with almost no mention of its ecology or behaviour. The other sections give full and detailed descriptions of the various plumages, voice, measurements, movements, geographic variation and distribution, and each account starts with a useful 'field characters' section, which deals explicitly with how to distinguish the species from similar ones. Any identification guide will be judged largely by its plates. The 73 here are almost uniformly excellent, although some are fairly crowded, but why did Alan Harris not do them all? John Davis was allowed only ten. Seeing this book has made me wonder, not for the first time, at whom this series is aimed and what the books are used for.

Issue 11
Start Page: 
Display Image: 

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now