Review of The Birder’s Guide to Africa by Michael Mills

Bram Vogels  ·  26 december 2017  12:50

I bought this book partly based on this interesting review. Without a doubt there are interesting pages in the book, not at least the first pages with the comparison of all the countries. Besides that it is probably extremely difficult to fit all the information of this massive continent in one book. I have not very extensive experience in Africa, I birded so far in only four countries. But because I was planning trips to two other countries (Ghana and Uganda) I was very interested in the book. So I can only comment for people who have basic travel experience in Africa and what you learn from the book:

-        The first pages are very interesting to pinpoint directly some interesting countries, in my opinion an interesting view. Because I use HBW I can make target maps very easily which take into account my lifelist, but the book gives an extra dimension based on safety, endemism, etc…

-        The country accounts mostly have long lists of ‘target’ birds. I think these target lists are to extensive. It starts with the species which are top targets for the country or the country is one of the two best spots to see it. These lists are not too long and basically the most important targets for a country. The possible splits are also very interesting, but the very long list of ‘other’ targets is too long. For Ghana this contains species like Violet Turaco, Blue-bellied roller, Senegal parrot, Yellow-crowned gonolek, Vieillot’s barbet, etc… Species which are easily seen in other countries, so no need to stress them in these country lists.

-        The family accounts comprise almost 50 pages and this adds in my opinion nothing to the book. It is very superficial, the pictures are good, but the pages are way to crowdy and there are quite some pictures where the feet or the bill is partly lacking, etc, just to fit as many pictures as possible on a page.

-        Species accounts: the information per species for easiness etc is relevant to get a feeling which species to focus on. A species can be an endemic and very easy to see, or have a large distribution but very hard to see. So that’s a good thing, but the species information is very limited. For quite some species which are targets for me in for instance Ghana is only indicated ‘forests in the south of Ghana’. That’s actually nothing new when your targets are mostly upper guinean forest species… Besides that a lot of vagrants are included, but I suppose no one is planning a trip to Africa to look for Earasian wigeon, White-breasted waterhen and Sabine’s gull.

So it is an interesting read, a good overview, but if it is very helpfull to really plan a trip for a country is doubtfull. I suppose it was better to cut in the country accounts, skip the family accounts, focus the species accounts on the relevant targets in Africa by skipping the vagrants and expand the species accounts or add more information about the sites in the country accounts. I don’t think I will take this book with me on vacation, but surely use it to get an overview for coming trips. So if you buy it, don’t do it with the wrong expectations it is definitely not a where to watch with detailed descriptions.

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