INTRODUCING COUNTRY GUIDES
A key challenge facing birders when visiting a country in an unfamiliar part of the world is working out which species they have a chance of connecting with during their visit. Regional field guides, of course, are indispensable, but they have a number of shortcomings:
- they are published and updated infrequently, meaning they cannot provide the latest information about species
- they are generally inclusive, meaning they describe every bird species that has been recorded in the region
To save birdwatchers the trouble of trawling through online information to supplement the details in their regional field guides, the All the World’s Birds (ATWB) Country Guides series provides a set of reference eBooks of regularly occurring species for selected countries.
Classifying a bird species as being ‘regularly present’ in a country presents a set of challenges. There is a variety of resources available online that provide information about species distributions, but these do not always agree, and at times when creating these guides I have been obliged to make a judgement based on what seems most likely. Consequently, there will be instances in every publication in the ATWB Country Guides series where the reader may disagree with or be puzzled by the inclusion or exclusion of a species from a particular list. [Note: if you disagree with my assessment of the status of a species in any country, please do get in touch with me by commenting on this blog post!]
For the purpose of the ATWB guides, a definition of ‘regularly present’ goes something like this:
“A bird classified as a species in the IOC bird list and for which under normal circumstances and expectations (i.e. ignoring rare or irregular incursions into regions and accidental records) it is possible to be confident that if you were birding in the appropriate part of the country, in suitable habitat, at an appropriate elevation, and at the right time of the year, for a bird species listed as ‘regularly present’ there would be individuals of that species actually present, and you would have a chance of recording that bird in its native state (i.e. not as an introduced species).” Of course, whether or not you would actually find these birds is another story altogether …!
With this definition in mind, let’s look at the results for the first five ATWB Country Guides to be published:
Ecuador (including Galápagos Islands): 1594 regularly occurring species in 88 families
Peru: 1789 regularly occurring species in 87 families
Mainland Colombia (excludes outlying islands): 1792 regularly occurring species in 85 families
South Africa (excluding Prince Edward Islands): 731 regularly occurring species in 103 families
India (including Andaman and Nicobar Islands): 1209 regularly occurring species in 113 families
What I find most surprising is the closeness of the species counts for Mainland Colombia and Peru. To all intents and purposes they are the same! Once accidentals and introduced species have been removed, and the species that occur regularly in Colombia’s outlying islands in the western Caribbean and Pacific Ocean are discounted, the answer to the question: “Which has more bird species – Mainland Colombia or Peru?” becomes: “Neither! They have the same number (more or less).”
The figures above are derived from studying the distributions of extant species that appear in the IOC bird list version 10.2, published July 25 2020.
Gill F, D Donsker & P Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v10.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.2.
For the next version of the IOC bird list (11.1), five new species of Tapaculo have been added, which may tip the balance in the favour of Peru (or Colombia!). The point is: this is an ongoing fluid situation, so we might as well accept that the two countries have the same number of regularly occurring species on the mainland of South America. [Note: if you include Colombia’s outlying islands, currently an additional 18 regularly occurring species can be added to the country’s total.] Of course, Peru is a much smaller country, so it wins ‘hands down’ for ‘average number of species per square kilometre’!
Another result is that South Africa and India have arguably a greater diversity of species, with regularly occurring species in each country representing more than 100 families. [Note: for the country of India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands accounts for 45 of that country’s species total.]
Two more ATWB Country Guides will be published shortly: for Myanmar and Vietnam.
You can find all currently available ATWB Country Guides by searching in the Books section of your local Amazon site for ATWBCG. Or, click here to see all ATWB Country Guide titles on Amazon US; or here to see all ATWB Country Guide titles on Amazon UK.
Each eBook in the series will be updated annually to reflect the latest internationally accepted status of bird species as defined by the International Ornithological Congress (IOC). The eBooks are priced low and are formatted for all Kindle reading devices (tablets, smartphones, computers). Birders can download the free Kindle reading app to whichever device they will be taking with them.
Within each eBook, birders will find the following sections:
REGION LISTS – check which species occur regularly within each country region
COMPLETE LIST – taxonomic details, showing each species’ order, family, genus and scientific name
SPOTLIGHTED BIRDS – country, local and regional endemics, plus selected specialty birds that have a restricted range
INTRODUCED AND OTHER SPECIES
QUICK REFERENCE – follow the links to find birds based on their common English names
Further, if their reading device is connected to the internet, birders have ‘one click’ access to up to date information about every species that appears in each eBook.
For more details about the series of ATWB Country Guides, click here.
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