A recent addition to the Helm Field Guide series, Birds of Oman is an updated abridgement of the second edition of Birds of the Middle East (Porter and Aspinall, 2010). All 528 species recorded in the wild in Oman up to June 2017 are included, making it as comprehensive a field guide as possible for anyone interested in the country’s birdlife. Indeed, considering Oman’s avian diversity, size and location within the Arabian peninsula, this guide would also be more than adequate for birders visiting the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.
A seven page introduction may seem a touch excessive for the size of the book, particularly as it lacks a country/region map and any detailed information about Oman’s habitats and topography. However, the text is not overbearing and does a good job of highlighting issues such as conservation concerns, birder/photographer conduct in the country, and the importance of submitting bird records. Furthermore, one and a half of these pages are filled with Hanne and Jens Eriksen’s mouth-watering photographs of Crowned Sandgrouse, Verreaux’s Eagle and Jouanin’s Petrel, a more than worthy use of space!
The species accounts are at once information-packed and concise, and have clearly been written by astute field observers with an attention to detail, and a great deal of experience of the birds of Oman and the wider region. Seasoned larophiles will be pleased to see four pages on large white-headed gulls, including the comparison table for Heuglin’s, Steppe and Caspian Gulls that first featured in Porter and Aspinall, 2010. Even the ‘casual Caspian Guller’ can take this book to Oman safe in the knowledge that there’s help at hand for the confusing (and fascinating!) array of large gulls that await.
The illustrations are generally of a very good standard, and the plates do not feel cluttered, except perhaps the ‘smaller terns’. However, it is useful to have all the confusion species of this difficult family on one double-page spread, with breeding, non-breeding and juvenile/first-winter plumages all depicted. There is an eleven-page checklist at the end of the book, useful for keeping a record of previous sightings within the book, without having to mark up the species accounts.Oman remains a wonderful birding destination and its popularity seems to be growing. This book is a timely addition to the suite of available country-level field guides, and is a must-have for resident birders and anyone considering or planning a visit.