Birds of the Canary Islands

Birds of the Canary Islands
Eduardo García-del-Rey
Publisher:  Christopher Helm, London
2018
Softback
Page Count:  192
ISBN Number:  9781472941558
£
19.99

The Canary Islands are a well-travelled holiday destination, and it comes somewhat as a surprise that this is the first field guide to the archipelago. This book by local birdwatcher Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey aims to fill that gap. The opening chapters take a look at the history of ornithology in the region, as well as providing an overview of the climate and habitat. There is also a chapter dedicated to the best birdwatching sites on each island. The author highlights the relative lack of knowledge from some of the western islands, which could well add new species to the Canary Islands list.

However, the majority of the book is dedicated to the species accounts, which includes illustrations of all but the rarest visitors to the Canary Islands. Each account includes brief information on the distribution, habitat preferences and any relevant taxonomic notes. The latter is of particular interest for species such as Robin and Goldcrest, whose local subspecies may yet represent valid species. The final section includes a checklist of all species recorded to date in the archipelago.

While the book provides a good introduction to the islands, it could be improved by expanding some sections and providing a fuller account. In particular, a section focusing on the local specialities would have been particularly welcome. A look at the evolution of the Pterodroma petrel, ‘Woodpigeon’ and ‘Chaffinch’ groups in the Canary Islands and other east Atlantic islands would have made for fascinating reading. It is also a pity that the very poorly known Canary Islands Oystercatcher is only mentioned in the final checklist.

The site guide section could have also been expanded, even by just including a map of the individual islands with markers for each site mentioned. As it is, it is very basic and possibly not that helpful to visiting birders. While the illustrations are fine, with a few minor exceptions, I wonder if it may have been a better to keep the less likely species in a separate section?

Ultimately, it is a useful guide for anyone visiting the Canary Islands for the first time, and hopefully providing some encouragement to visit the lesser known islands of El Hierro and La Palma.
Stephen McAvoy