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Article 38 bullet 14 September 2007

The new Roberts Field Guide

by Hugh Chittenden

After years of waiting, the new Roberts Bird Guide is printed and will go on sale from about mid October 2007. This PVC covered field guide (no paper backs) will retail for R175. It is designed to be slightly narrower than A5 size, is 456 pages thick with fully annotated plates and has full pages of text.

Additional Artwork like the female sunbird heads

 Additional art work was commissioned for this new field guide.

New Features

New to the world of Field Guides in southern Africa are the beautifully prepared multi-coloured maps produced specially for the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund by Guy Gibbon. These maps have 3 shades for each colour, reflecting the density of reporting rates (or abundance) of birds in the region. Below each map is a breeding bar showing the full and peak breeding season for all breeding birds. Also for the first time, this region now gets a true field guide that is not merely an identification guide, with space being allocated for the supply information on food and breeding, though this had to be kept to a minimum obviously because of space restraints. This is also the first field guide in the region to fully utilize all space on the text pages!

Bird Guide Cover

All books have PVC all-weather covers, no paper-backs have been printed. The JVBBF are extremely proud to have been able to produce this guide at a recommended retail price of R175.

Etymology (meaning of names) and other language names.

For those who are interested in the meaning of scientific names, all these have been included in an easy to find appendix at the back of the book, as well as names of birds in 13 other languages.

The Afrikaans names are obviously included (with an Afrikaans edition due soon), in fact these names had already been finalized and included in the preparation of this guide before the publication of the Roberts 7 handbook was released. The Trustees of the JVBBF recognize that the omission of Afrikaans names in the handbook was a serious error and that this will NOT be repeated in future Roberts publications.

Pictorial Quick Index

An easy to find quick index (both pictorial and alphabetical) has been placed on the inner front cover.

Endemic and Red Data species

For those interested in knowing which of our species are endemic and which are threatened or Red Data species, this information is highlighted with the use of colour. All Endemic bird names are printed in GREEN, and the status of Red Data species is highlighted in RED. On the latter point however, this is really just a guide as Red Data lists vary from region to region. As an example, listed Red Data species in Swaziland and Namibia (or elsewhere in the world) may not necessary correspond with regard to status.

New Multicoloured maps

One of the most exciting features in this guide are the multi-coloured maps with 3 shades for each colour that reflect the abundance of various species in the region.

Southern African Guides

Birders may ask, ‘why another guide for the region’. Well, if you have birded in other parts of the world you will know that to be in the field with 2 regional guides is FAR better than to only have one! You can compare illustrations, maps and get a feel of what features are being emphasized. This is the first in a series of bird guides that is being prepared by the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. Preparation of a dedicated Roberts Kruger National Park Bird guide is well underway and so too is the Geographic Variation Guide that will illustrate the various plumage differences of about two thirds of the 900 odd recognised subspecies in the region. About half the plates for this guide are now complete. T he sole artist for the project is the well known artist Ingrid Weiersbye. Also, the JVBBF is currently having the new Field Guide translated into Afrikaans (translation almost complete).

Nightjar Identificatio

New to the scene of birding in the region is an easy to use nightjar feather identification plate that should give you the tools to correctly ID any adult nightjar in the hand within about 20 seconds! Very handy for road kills.

Other features

Because this guide follows the new bird order adopted by the Roberts 7 handbook, a comprehensive pictorial Quick index is spread over the inner front cover of the book and is followed on the following page by an alphabetical quick index. A quick guide on ‘How to use this book’ is placed on the inner back cover for easy access.

Publishers and Author

This guide is published by the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund through Africa Geographic in Cape Town. The author is Hugh Chittenden, who was assisted by Guy Upfold. Guy played a major role in the layout of plates and breeding bars. Guy Gibbon produced all the bird maps.

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