Review – Field Guide to the Birds of Australia

The following is a review of the completely revised 8th edition, Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day. We received this copy from the publisher, Penguin Australia.

The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia is a masterpiece of a guide and a comprehensive resource for birding in Australia. With 132 full-color plates and 900+ black and white illustrations by Nicolas Day, this guide provides a fantastic comparison to birds sighted in the field.

The text, by Ken Simpson and other bird experts, gives great detail into what key identifying factors to look for along with voice and habitat. The range maps have been updated but are a bit small, especially for pinpointing localized species of birds.

Species with commonly observed variations or subspecies are given extended coverage in both the artwork and text. There is also a Vagrant Bird Bulletin that includes more information on birds not covered in the main text but seen as vagrants, including specific location(s). I’d love to see this done in North American field guides.

Some other great features found in the Field Guide to the Birds of Australia:

  • Seabird identification by bill: life-size bill profiles on the inside waterproof cover to assist in identifying dead seabirds—albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters
  • Detailed and thorough section on “How to Observe a Bird”
  • Key to Families: provides a quick overview of the families with illustrations to easily compare and locate the correct (or suspected) family of birds
  • Habitat descriptions with information on how elevation effects habitat and the types of birds you’ll find
  • A large section on Breeding Information which includes a breakdown of the breeding cycle of ALL birds that breed in Australia
  • Hints for birdwatchers to improve their birding
  • Australian Island Territories Checklists
  • Glossary of avian terms
  • List of birdwatching and naturalist organizations
  • “Core Library” which lists further resources to increase your birding knowledge

The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia is the ultimate identification guide for Australian birds for birders of all levels of expertise. I hope some of the features get adopted into North American guides soon!

One thought on “Review – Field Guide to the Birds of Australia

  1. I love this bird book by Simpson & Day. It’s so handy. A quick alert to an error, in case it has not already been noticed: The distribution map for the Pied Butcherbird, on page 254 of the 10th edition, is incorrect. As shown, it is a duplicate of the distribution map for the Black-backed Butcherbird, which appears immediately above the Pied Butcherbird description on this page. The Pied Butcherbird is widely distributed throughout much of Australia, as shown in other bird books (such as Graham Pizzey’s guide).

    The Pied Butcherbird is common where I live (Sunshine Coast, Qld), and I noticed that the shown distribution, northern Cape York Peninsula, is obviously wrong.

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