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The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide (Anglais) Broché – 16 décembre 2010
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So finally, there is a fine birding guide for Panama, with range maps and today's customary set-up with the text, range maps and plates all on the same double-page spread. Compared to the Costa Rica volume, the printing of the plates is stronger. No more pale looking birds. Instead, there may be a few that got a bit too much ink. But overall the plates look more accurate. In particular, cotingas and honeycreepers now seem to have their correct colors.
And it's only here that one can fully appreciate the very high quality of the artwork done by Robert Dean. I think his work is at least comparable to the one by Guy Tudor, long considered the one to compare all others with when it comes to neotropical field guide illustrations. For Central America, the Dean artwork as printed in the Panama book is definitely the new standard.
There are many other improvements compared to the Costa Rica volume. Thus, range maps are now color coded, immediately providing information on the status of a species in Panama, like breeding or migrant bird.
The most critical identification characters are highlighted in bold face, a feature already found in the Costa Rica book. However, this feature has been expanded. And the text gives much more info on how to distinguish similar species from each other. It even includes the page number when that other species is not on the same spread. Great practical help indeed! I wish this would become common standard in field guides. The map on the inside cover provides all the location names mentioned in the text. Compliments here, as well!
This book is a bit larger than the companion volume for Costa Rica. It has thus lost the advantage of being very compact. Part of the reason may be the elongated shape of Panama, as the range maps needed more space to still be meaningfully large. This is nevertheless a fairly compact volume when compared to the much larger and now outdated (for identification purposes) earlier guide book for Panama by Ridgely and Gwynne.
There is still room for improvements, of course. The major one would be to have more flight pictures. Also, I wish the book had an alphabetical quick-find index on an inside cover flap like the National Geographic guide for North American birds. The material used for the soft cover is not very good, it starts to look worn after a very short period of regular use. And since Panama is actually a Spanish speaking country, it would help to have Spanish names as well, including an index for them. This would also help to further interest among the natives. Hopefully, a Spanish edition will be in the future as well. But all that is secondary for now. The authors have to be congratulated for this very fine achievement.
My only negative critisism is that at least 2 endemics were not illustrated (the Escudo Hummingbird and Wren) and for some species only the male or female is illustrated.
All in all this field guide is absolutley unrivaled if you are going to be traveling and birding in Panama. It proved to be so valuable that I left my copy with a friend who was staying in Panama (even though he had access to the other Panama bird guides) and will be purchasing another copy. Highly recommended.
Just got back from Canopy Tower, highly recommend it and Panama.