First, about the size, it isn't a tiny fit-in-your-back-pocket kind of book. As you can see below, it's just a tad smaller than the newest Sibley Guide to Birds (which most North American birders are familiar with). The proportions are the exact same as the Pizzey & Knight Australia book in everything except thickness; Campbell et al. is just a tad thinner:
Sometimes a picture of the habitat is included with the text and map:
After that comes the species accounts which essentially is the remainder of the book. When you open this book, you'll see species text and maps on the left side and pictures of the birds on the right. Here's an example of the treecreeper section:
I figured I'd end with a list of pros and cons:
* Every Australian bird is mentioned (all 714 species)
* Photos are pretty decent; this book is said to have 1100 photos.
* Range maps are present with the text and photos, not in the back.
* Some birders don't like photographic guides. This is a photographic guide. I hear you.
* There is little room for additional text about calls, natural history, seasonality, etc.
As a whole, though, I really enjoyed flipping through this book and I do think it's quite valuable to have. Still, this book brought to mind an issue I've discussed before; photographic guides. I typically don't rank photographic bird books very high due to the inability to standardize and, overall, I'm not a fan of any guide here in North America that attempts to ID a species in one or two photos (whereas "the" gull book, with tons of photos of every species, is superb). I'm not 100% certain why that is but I think it roots in me being familiar with birds here. Once I learned the birds and became familiar with so many, I think my level of expectation in a field guide went way up. Instead of trying to figure out if it's a Spotted Towhee or Eastern Towhee, I want to see the different subspecies, I want to see as many different ages as possible, I just need more. In general, photographic guides don't do that for me.
So why do I like this photographic guide? Well, it comes back to me NOT being familiar with the birds in Australia. If I went back, I'd surely be spending my energy on just trying to figure out which honeyeater I'm looking at, you know? Not being familiar with these birds in turn makes seeing photos of buttonquail and emu-wrens maybe more enjoyable than illustrations!
Still, in the end, if I had to choose only one bird book for a trip to Australia, I'd definitely still choose the Pizzey & Knight book just because there are more depictions of the birds (and they're illustrations!) as well as more information about nests, eggs, habitat, seasons, voice, natural history, etc.
For more information about this book, you can visit the Princeton University Press website. Just click here.
I received a complementary copy from the publisher for review purposes,
but the viewpoint expressed in this article is entirely my own.