BASICS: hardcover, 2010, 712pp; 350+ excellent color photos and 42 remarkable color plates show 112 of the 144 species found in the 3 families of Locustellidae, Acrocephalidae, and Cettidae; chapter for each bird gives in-depth coverage of identification, plumage variations, similar species, voice, molt, habitat, breeding, distribution, taxonomy, and seasonal movements; sonogram samples, line sketches, and detailed range maps given for each bird
To the point, this is an awesome book. It offers outstanding photos and illustrations accompanied by thorough text. Another aspect that makes this book impressive is the number of isolated and more recently described (split) species that are shown. This is an outstanding book on a most difficult group of birds to observe or identify.
To clarify, this book does not cover all the reed and bush warblers of the world. Instead, it addresses 112 of the 144 species described from three families which represent a newer taxonomic organization. The count is 33 of the 44 Locustellidae, all 54 of the Acrocephalidae, and 25 of the 34 Cettidae species. To be fair to the authors, some exclusions are due to late taxonomic changes that repositioned some species into the three target families. This left insufficient time to include the new-comers in the book.
The selection of 350+ color photographs is wonderful, offering multiple views and plumages. For each of the more documented or widespread species, about a dozen photos are shown. Regarding the lesser known or range restricted birds, only 1-3 photos may be provided. As an example, 4 of the 5 Tesias and 2 of the 3 Stubtails are represented by only one photograph. On the extreme, 9 species have no photograph available; but, they are illustrated nicely in the plates.
The 42 color plates, composed of about 385 illustrations, are of superior quality. Great detail is put into the various plumages helping to distinguish not just the similar species but also the many subspecies. The large illustrations are shown directly across from the short description that focuses on key identifying points.
Another notable feature of this book are the photographs and material made available on some of the very rare and even extinct species. The recently extinct Aldabra Bush-Warbler is represented by 2 photographs. The rediscovered Long-billed Reed Warbler has 5 photos and 3 pages of text, making it the best source of information on this bird. The same can be said of the 2 pages for the Timor Reed Warbler rediscovered in 2009; although, no photo is available for this bird.
The researched text is as equally impressive. A chapter of 2-13 pages provides an account for each bird. Approximately half of the material is dedicated to describing each bird, its subspecies, and for comparing and separating similar species. The amount of material can be extensive and very detailed for the plumages, the bare parts, and geographic variations. An obviously great amount of research went into compiling information to provide detailed distribution descriptions for not just the species, but for each of the subspecies. The 1-3 paragraphs dedicated to vocalizations give a great description for the calls and song of the bird. This is also accompanied by a 1-3 sonograms. Additional material covers habitat, behavior, breeding habits, movements, and molt. A few tables are also provided for in-hand measurements of the bird. Lastly, most species are aided with extra b&w drawings that illustrate tail or wing formulae, shapes, or patterns.
Lastly, a very detailed map is given for all but 5 of the species. The 5 without a map are island-restricted birds in the South Pacific (Pitcairn, Henderson, Rimatara, Nauru, and Bouganville). These maps are tailored to each bird, zooming in when necessary for those birds with a small range. For the more wide ranging birds such as the European Reed Warbler, a multi-continent map is given with country borders and major rivers. Each of the subspecies is also denoted on the map.
Amongst the many identification guides that focus on a family or group of birds, this is one of the best, right along with "Sylvia Warblers" and " Pipits and Wagtails". Any birder who's serious about these LBJ's or loves the torment and challenge of identifying them will definitely want to own a copy of this book. - (written by Jack at Avian Review, January 2010)
I've listed several related books below...
1) Sylvia Warblers by Shirihai et al.
2) Warblers of Europe, Asia, and North Africa by Baker
3) British Warblers by Simms
4) Guide to the Warblers of the Western Palearctic by Parmenter/Byers
5) A Field Guide to the Warblers of Britain and Europe by Moore
6) Identification for Ringers 1: Cettia, Locustella, Acrocephalus, and Hippolais by Williamson
7) Identification for Ringers 2: Phylloscopus by Williamson
8) Identification for Ringers 3: The Genus Sylvia by Williamson