Basics: 2003, 7th edition, flexcover, 382 pages, 132 color plates of 760 species, range maps
Succinctly, this is an excellent field guide and is the best selection from the several other Australian guides available for three reasons. One, the plates have the best quality of artwork. Two, the various plumages and races are shown and presented better. And, three, this book is smaller than the other two, making it more manageable in the field.
Starting with the first edition, the plates are great and have only improved over the past 20 years. The colors, patterns, and detail are more striking and - to me - more realistic and accurate. The birds are also shown positioned in more angles, reflecting natural behavior. I like this versus showing each bird in the same, standardized pose. Another 900 black-and-white illustrations are included to point out important identification details. These address tail, beak, or wing patterns; facial markings; or postures and behaviors.
The text for each bird is found across from the plate. The amount of information is variable, ranging from a short to a long paragraph. About 1/2 to 2/3 of the text focuses on describing the bird with concise identification notes. The subspecies are also described. Sometimes, this is too brief and I found myself wanting a few extra pieces of information when using this book in the field. Additional, but very brief, notes are given for size, voice, and habitat. The descriptions of the voice are okay, but thin. Much better descriptions are given in Morcombe's book. The identification material is probably a bit better in Morcombe's book, too. A 21-page section at the back includes information on the breeding periods of hundreds of birds along with information on their nesting and eggs.
The range maps are very informative. They include the various races and use a variety of symbols. These maps offer more detail than the other books by zooming in when the bird has a restricted ranges. The movements of migrating birds are done very well, too. A weakness of these maps is potentially their greater complexity than what's found in most range maps. This could be either a positive or negative feature for the different readers. I found them to be very helpful. A definite weakness is the small size of these maps, with Australia at 1.5 x 2 cm. The size of the font used within the maps is also very small and might be a challenge for some people to read.
Serious birding in Australia should be done with either this book or, with one of the others by Morcombe or Pizzey (7th ed.). This Simpson/Day book has the superior artwork, Morcombe's the better text material, and Pizzey's has the cleaner plates. You cannot go wrong with any of these books.
1) Field Guide to Australian Birds by Morcombe
2) The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, 7th ed. by Pizzey
3) Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia by Flegg
4) Australian Birds: A Concise Photographic Field Guide by Trounson
5) The Atlas of Australian Birds by Blakers
6) Birds in the Australian High Country by Frith
7) Complete Book of Australian Birds by Reader's Digest
8) A Photographic Guide to Birds of Australia by Rowland
9) The Birds of Prey of Australia by Debus
10) A Field Guide to Nests & Eggs of Australian Birds by Beruldsen
11) Where to Find Birds in Australia by Bransbury
(written by Soleglad at Avian Review or Avian Books, October 2008)