Birds of Western Africa: Helm Field Guide
Birds of Western Africa: Helm Field Guide

Birds of Western Africa

By: Steve Hay
Posted on: 20 Jul 2007First Published: January 2010 issue of Birdwatch magazine

Helm’s identification guide Birds of Western Africa (2001) is a superbly comprehensive book, but there’s no way you’d want to lug it out into the field – which is where this new field guide comes in. In a manageable format, it features 148 colour plates from the identification guide (there are also many new paintings included), plus a concise text which is placed on facing pages to make the information much more accessible. The colour distribution maps have been updated, and lie between the text and plates.

Since the donor title was published, six new species have been documented in the region, and these are also included here. Three further species are no longer considered to occur, and are omitted from the field guide. Covering 1,304 species, this is the first comprehensive field guide to the birds of all 23 western African countries, from Mauritania east to Chad and south to Congo. It includes all the island groups.

The plates seem to have been reproduced slightly darker than in the identification guide, which works well in most cases, making the birds appear more vivid than before. The African Blue Flycatcher on page 375, for example, is now much more like the bird I saw at Tendaba in The Gambia in January, whereas the identification guide’s version seemed like a pale imitation. The size of some of the secondary illustrations is at the limit of usefulness, for example the Common Snipe and Greater Painted-snipe on page 143, but even this small, the illustrations are accurate. A handy feature is the link to the CD and track number in African Bird Sounds Chappuis 2000), which follows most species accounts.

Like its predecessor, this new volume will become essential for anyone visiting western Africa, and this book is light and handy enough to be ideal for field use. Don’t go west without it!

First published in Birdwatch 155: 55 (May 2005). To order a copy of Birds of Western Africa please click here.

Tech spec

  • Birds of Western Africa: Helm Field Guide by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey (Christopher Helm, London, 2004).
  • 510 pages, 148 colour plates, many maps.
  • ISBN 978-0713666922. Pbk, £29.99.

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