Monday, 6 September 2010

Bird books to use in Sudan

In recent years there have been a number of good quality field guides produced (mainly by Helm) that cover most of Africa. Unfortunately, most of these guides miss out Sudan and only include countries to the north, east, west and south. I guess this is because it would add a large number of species without leading to the sale of many more copies. There are many other good African and Middle East field guides, but I have tried to include only the ones that are recognised as being the most useful for Sudan. Please remember that I have not traveled around the country, so I am making this review based on what I believe to be the situation. Please let me know if my assessment is wrong.

Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds with Notes on Habitat and Status. Nikolaus G. 1987. Bonner Zoologische Monographien, Nr. 25.

This is not a field guide, but gives important information about Sudan’s birds. Information about each species is included and most species have a map to show where they have been recorded. It’s surprisingly thorough given that Sudan has been relatively under-watched over the years.  This is an important resource that is probably only second in importance to a good field guide. Note that there have been many taxonomic changes made since this book was published, so many species in the modern field guides are known by different names.

Birds of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouta, Somalia and Socotra. Redman, N., Stevenson, T., and Fanshawe, J. 2009. Helm Field Guides.

This is the best field guide for use by anyone based in Khartoum. There are very few species around Khartoum that are not covered and most would be familiar to European birders. It would be the best in the eastern part of the country in areas bordering Eritrea and Ethiopia.  It is very good quality and the book I take with me into the field.

Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Stevenson, T and Fanshawe, J. 2003. Helm Field Guides.

This is very much a sister field guide to ‘Birds of the Horn of Africa’ discussed above and many of the plates are the same.  Uganda and Kenya have borders with Sudan in the south, so this would probably be the best guide to use in that region of the country, such as around Juba.

Birds of West Africa. Borrow, N and Demey, R. 2008. Helm Field Guides.

Although much of this guide covers countries further west, it also covers Chad and the Central African Republic, which border Sudan to the west and south-west. It would probably be the best guide for use in the west of Sudan.

Birds of the Middle East and North Africa. Hollom, P. A. D., Porter, R. F., Christensen, S. and Willis, I. 1988. T. and A.D. Poyser.

This guide covers areas to the north of Sudan and would be the best guide for the desert regions. It covers Libya and Egypt that border Sudan to the north and Saudi Arabia that faces Sudan across the Red Sea.

Collins Bird Guide 2nd edition. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D. and Grant, P. J. 2010. Collins.

Widely recognised as one of the best field guides ever published, this book covers most of the species that pass through Sudan on migration from Europe. It covers some of the more difficult species to identify, so although the other field guides may include these species, the Collins Guide will offer more technical detail.

Birds of the Sudan. Cave, F. O. and MacDonald, J. D. 1955. Oliver and Boyd.

This is the only guide that covers Sudan, but it is now very out of date and would not be of any practical use in the field. It is more of interest for its historical perspective.

Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. 2003. Sinclair, I., Ryan, P., Christy, P., Arlott, N. and Hockey, P. Struik.

I don’t have a copy of this book and I have only had a quick flick through it. In my opinion it covers too large an area in one volume, so lacks detail. However, it might be a useful book for anyone who does not want to carry multiple books on a journey through several countries including Sudan.

Fry, C. H. and Keith, S. (Editors) The Birds of Africa vols. 1 to 7.

This seven volume work is the most comprehensive ever published on the birds of Africa.  It is not for field use, but provides the most up to date information on the species in the region.

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