Book reviews:    Birds of West Africa   

Birds of West Africa
W.Serle, G.J. Morel, W. Hartwig
0 00 219204 7
Reprint 1995
Harper Collins Publishers
Order this book from Amazon (difficult to find)
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For many years this was the only field guide to west African birds in the english language. For a popular birding country like The Gambia it was the only choice. It is a rather old book, first published in 1977. The edition I bought was reprinted in 1995. Since it was the only book available, all the birders in The Gambia use it. Also all the local bird guides have it and use it. They have studied it it very thorough! The experience of the local bird guides is exceptional. On birding trips like the early morning trip to the Lamin area, there are usually half a dozen local bird guides around. Everytime they spot a bird, they will shout its name together with the plate and bird number in this book. These guides make a sport out of knowing all birds complete with the page and plate number. Incredible! Therefore this book is very handy in The Gambia. Recently another field guide to this region became available, Birds of The Gambia and Senegal, which is far better quality.

book5b.jpg (33637 bytes)This book has plates with drawings of the birds together with a short identification description, as you can see on the picture here. Unfortunately not all drawings are in color. Many are in black and white only. Also the quality of the drawings isn't always great. Besides this, the plates are distributed throughout the book. Also the descriptions of the species are destributed throughout the book. So you have a few pages with plates, then a few text pages, then again plates etc. It is very hard to find what you are looking for in this book. You have to keep going through it, but by the time you have found what you were looking for, the bird may already have disappeared. What is nice is that the book has a list (but not an index) in the back with the spanish, french and german names of the birds.




Conclusion: This book has certainly served its purposes for many birders in the past. But it is now a bit old, a new version with new all color drawings and an easier setup would be very nice. For birders to The Gambia and neighboring countries there is now a much better guide available, though bigger and more expensive. Therefore I would advise not to buy this book anymore but the field guide to Birds of The Gambia. But of course it is always very nice to have both of them.

This book is out of print and may be hard to find, but you may try at Amazon:  ordercom.gif (402 bytes) orderuk.gif (400 bytes) orderde.gif (350 bytes)

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All text and images 1991 - 2011 Hans Martens