Atlas des Oiseaux de France en Hiver. By Dosithée Yeatman-Berthelot, assisted by Guy Jarry. Société Ornithologique de France, Paris, 1991. 575 pages; 271 line-drawings; 351 distribution maps. Fr.350.00.
The late Laurent Yeatman—a name perhaps not known to the latest generation of British birdwatchers—was the driving force behind the pioneer French breeding bird atlas. Scarcely had he finished it, Jean Dorst recounts, when he proposed an even more revolutionary atlas of winter bird distribution. Th e Council of the Société Ornithologique de France urged him to launch the new project. He hesitated, for his health was fast failing, but his daughter Dosithée promised to help, and to take charge when he could no longer manage. No matter how interesting it was in breaking new ground, the Atlas des Oiseaux Nicheurs de France (1976) was, to be frank, a somewhat hurried and drab publication. In contrast, the atlas here reviewed is a most elegant volume, deserving a place on the bookshelf of both bibliophile and active birdwatcher. Fieldwork for this atlas covered the four winters 1977/78 to 1980/81, winter being defined as the period from 1st December to 20th February. As in the breeding atlas, the area unit— the equivalent of the British 10-km square—was a rectangle measuring 20km X 27km. Of the total of 1,087 units, 14 were not visited at all and 13 were very superficially covered. Most rectangles (504) produced 61-80 species, the maximum score being 164 species for 'Rue' in the Baie de Somme. In the detailed and informative introduction, the Blackbird Turdus merula is noted as the most ubiquitous species in France in winter.