Basics: 2003, softcover, 448 pages, 3,400+ color illustrations of 850 species, range maps
Of the three best field guides to cover all of Australia, this is no less than the second best. It's a great field guide and does a thorough job of covering all Australia's birds (plus many outlying islands) and of illustrating the various plumages. It also contains a unique trait not found in the other books, which is to include identification tips within the plate next to the bird. I really like this feature because it immediately draws my eye to the key features to be examined as the bird quickly moves through the trees. As a cautionary note, these notes are typed in a small font size, which might necessitate reading glasses for some people.
The plates contain 2-6 species in each with anywhere from 8-31 different illustrations. Most of the plates contain only 10-15 illustrations. For those with many illustrations, the plates can be very busy, especially with all the ID tips written next to the birds. Somehow, even with all the illustrations, the birds are still portrayed in a nice size in the plates. This is probably due to the somewhat larger size of this book. It will fit into only the largest of your vest pockets; and, you'll feel its weight.
As for the artwork, it is good and does an excellent job at illustrating the many plumages and poses. The drawing style is unique and might be labeled as "textured". This if from visible lineation or pencil strokes. At times, this adds more pattern to the bird than what is truly present in the field; thus, this might be a distractor for some people.
The text provided on the left page is extremely helpful, detailed, and well written. Another unique feature is this text typically does not contain the identification material. Instead, nearly all of it is typed onto the plate itself with the bird. The additional material starts with behavioral aspects of the bird that help to identify it. More notes are given for the variations within subspecies. Further notes address voice, habitat, status, and tips to help distinguish the bird from a similar species. For me, this information is slightly better than in the other field guides. The descriptions of the voices is also noteworthy.
The maps also employ a unique feature. Instead of merely coloring in the range of the bird, the author uses up to three different shades of blue to represent the concentration of sightings or the likelihood of presence. When distinct subspecies are present, a separate color is used in the ranges. This technique effectively and quickly displays the contrasting ranges of the subspecies.
Lastly, two other unique elements are added to the back of the book. A 68-page section contains color illustrations of the nests and eggs of all the breeding birds along with a concise paragraph about the nest, material, eggs, brood size, and fledglings. This might not be appreciated by everyone since it adds more weight and thickness to the book (17% larger). A 10-page section contains additional plates and text on the species found on various outlying islands (e.g., Christmas, Lord Howe, Norfolk, Heard, and Cocos-Keeling Islands).
This book will serve you quite well in the field anywhere in Australia. It is also available in a compact format with 70 fewer pages, isjust a little shorter and is about half as wide; and, minus the nesting section. Two other books by Simpson/Day and by Pizzey (the 7th editions for both) are at least equals to this book. Only as a matter of personal opinion, I think the Simpson/Day book has better plates.
I've listed several related books below...
1) Birds of Australia, 7th ed. by Simpson/Day
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)