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Browse the archive of BTO Book Reviews, a selection of which appear in BTO News - the BTO membership magazine. Join BTO today to receive your own copy of BTO News.

The Corncrake (cover)

The Corncrake: an ecology of an enigma

Author: Frank Rennie

Publisher: Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781849955027

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 189pp

Price: £18.99

This comprehensive monograph is, perhaps surprisingly, the first to be published on this charismatic species. Extremely well referenced, while still being highly readable, Frank Rennie’s book provides a fascinating account of the Corncrake, both here and more widely across its range. As you would expect for a monograph, there are sections on breeding biology, migration, status, taxonomy, diet, mortality, and conservation. Refreshingly, the cultural importance of the Corncrake is also explored,... read more

Mike Toms

The Role of Birds in World War One (cover)

The Role of Birds in World War One: How Ornithology Helped to Win the Great War

Author: Nicholas Milton

Publisher: Pen & Sword History, Barnsley

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781399070560

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 232pp

Price: £21.99

In a follow-up to last year’s The Role of Birds in World War Two: How Ornithology Helped to Win the War, Nicholas Milton has produced another fascinating book exploring the role played by birds in 20th century conflict. Described as “The Best Birdwatching Army Ever Sent to War”, the British Expeditionary Force included hundreds of both professional and amateur ornithologists. This book covers a number of their stories, starting with the Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of war, Sir... read more

Lesley Hindley

Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe (cover)

Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe

Author: Roy Brown, John Ferguson, Michael Lawrence & David Lees

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9781472973184

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 416pp

Price: £29.99

I suspect that the vast majority of naturalists and birdwatchers have a few feathers, skulls and general bird detritus somewhere in their possession. These can serve as a souvenir from a trip, a useful reference, or worth having simply to appreciate their beauty or structure. Knowing where these objects come from adds a lot to their meaning. This is where Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe steps in.

This is the third edition of this book, with this latest... read more

Rob Jaques

The Bird Name Book (cover)

The Bird Name Book

Author: Susan Myers

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9780691235691

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 416pp

Price: £30.00

In style, this very engaging book sits somewhere between the terse Helm dictionary of scientific bird names (by James Jobling) and Ray Reedman’s much more discursive Lapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks. In content too. The subtitle here is all important - “A history of English bird names”. It aims to cover the ‘common’ English names of all bird groupings (from Accentor to Zeledonia). So no explanations of scientific names here – except where they have been transferred into the... read more

Rob Robinson

A Newsworthy Naturalist: The Life of William Yarrell (cover)

A Newsworthy Naturalist: the Life of William Yarrell

Author: Christine E. Jackson

Publisher: John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781913679040

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 228pp

Price: £25.00

Yarrell’s is a name that you have probably come across, if only through its association with the British race of White Wagtail – which we know as Pied Wagtail or Motacilla alba yarrellii. He is, however, a somewhat distant figure now, whose significant contributions to the study of birds (and fish) have largely been forgotten. Yarrell’s A History of British Fishes and A History of British Birds, published in the 1830s and 1840s respectively, were the main reference... read more

Mike Toms

Birds of the Lesser Antilles (cover)

Birds of the Lesser Antilles: A Photographic Guide

Author: Ryan Chenery

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472989611

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 224pp

Price: £16.99

This guide serves as a colourful who’s who of the Lesser Antilles’ birdlife designed for casual birders visiting the region, including those on a non-birding holiday who would nonetheless appreciate being able to identify the avian species they encounter on their travels. I am myself no means an ornithological expert, though my partner is, and we have been on many a holiday on which I have repeatedly asked ‘what’s that bird?’ or ‘what’s that I can hear singing?’. Sometimes having a weighty... read more

Sarah Cooper

From the Bird's Mouth (cover)

Bho Bheul an Eòin / From the Bird’s Mouth

Author: Ruairidh MacDhonnchaidh / Derek Robertson

Publisher: Woodlands Studios

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9780953932450

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 91pp

Price: £15.99

Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence in awareness of, and interest in, Scottish Gaelic far beyond the current heartlands of the Western Isles and Skye. Initiatives such as SpeakGaelic, a new learning program for beginners, learners, and lapsed speakers, as well as the online Scottish Gaelic Duolingo course have proven to be hugely popular. However, for Gaelic speakers, both native and learners, seeking to give voice to the nature around them, there are gaps where Gaelic names... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk (cover)

Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk

Author: David Callahan

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2020

ISBN: 9781472962225

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 366pp

Price: £24.99

Courtesy of its geographic position, diversity of lowland habitats and extensive coastline, East Anglia is high on the list of desirable UK birding destinations. Even in this age of web- and app-based resources, there is still a place for ‘where to watch’ books and this comprehensive site guide to such an attractive birding region will be of interest to local and visiting birdwatchers alike.

Overall, the book does a very good job of cramming in lots of information in a manageable... read more

Nick Moran

Birds of South Africa (cover)

Birds of South Africa

Author: Adam Riley

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472990808

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 224pp

Price: £16.99

For budding birders or those unfamiliar with African avifauna, the prospect of identifying birds in a biodiversity-rich country like South Africa might feel overwhelming. Birds of South Africa aims to provide a lifeline for this untapped audience. Pitching itself as a comprehensive beginner’s guide, the book provides just enough information on the appearance, habitats and behaviour of South Africa’s most commonly seen species to permit a positive identification. The vibrant and... read more

Fionnuala McCully

Gulls of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East (cover)

Gulls of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: An Identification Guide

Author: Peter Adriaens, Mars Muusse, Philippe J. Dubois & Frédéric Jiguet

Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9780691222837

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 320pp

Price: £29.99

Although I do not condone it, I (somewhat) understand why non-birdy people often refer to all gulls as ‘seagulls’. Until you get your eye in, some species do look similar to one another. This statement may be controversial, but it is safer to say that even for more experienced birders, gulls can be tricky. This is especially true when identifying juveniles. The authors of Gulls of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: An Identification Guide aimed to tackle this problem by... read more

Fionnuala McCully

Birds of the Middle East (cover)

Birds of the Middle East: A Photographic Guide

Author: Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan, Jens Eriksen and Richard Porter

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472986757

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 224pp

Price: £16.99

The Middle East is something of an international stepping stone for both migratory birds and people travelling between Europe, Africa and Asia. For birdwatchers stopping over in this part of the world, a rich and unique avifauna awaits, and this photographic guide provides a perfect introduction. The front cover is adorned with stunning images of a representative selection of the region’s birds: Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear, Steppe Eagle and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. These... read more

Nick Moran

Birds and Us (cover)

Birds and Us: A 12,000 Year History, from Cave Art to Conservation

Author: Tim Birkhead

Publisher: Viking Books, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9780241460498

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 473pp

Price: £24.99

The scope of Birds and Us is impressive, beginning 8,000 years ago with Neolithic cave art and ending on a 2018 undergraduate trip to Bempton Cliffs. As BTO Vice-president Prof Tim Birkhead takes us through the millennia in between, he weaves together art, religion and science with rich historical detail, mini-biographies and personal anecdotes. The book is written clearly and directly, and the result is a highly engaging journey which will appeal to anyone interested in the... read more

Miriam Lord

Galapagos Crusoes (cover)

Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone with the Birds

Author: Bryan Nelson and June Nelson

Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides, Chalfont St Peter

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781784778859

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 264pp

Price: £11.99

Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone with the Birds is an update to Bryan Nelson’s original 1968 book Galapagos: Islands of Birds, with additional stories from June, his wife. The two of them spent a year on two islands in Galapagos – Tower and Hood (known as Genovesa and Española today) - studying seabirds. As such, the book is a great introduction to the different species found on the Islands with in-depth chapters on the various mammals, reptiles, insects and birds that the... read more

Clare Simm

Man and Bird in the Paleolithic of Western Europe (cover)

Man and Bird in the Palaeolithic of Western Europe

Author: Anne Eastham

Publisher: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd, Oxford

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9781789699098

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 160pp

Price: £30.00

This book attempts to straddle the two disciplines of ornithology and archaeology, by fusing the author’s stated passion for birds with their obvious deep knowledge of early hunter-gatherer communities in Europe. With 134 pages of text out of 149 altogether, do not be fooled into thinking this will be a light or easy read; it is a dense academic piece.

The first chapters describe aspects of the ecology and diversity birds, and lives of the humans and Neanderthals that lived alongside... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

The Secret Perfume of Birds (cover)

The Secret Perfume of Birds: Uncovering the Science of Avian Scent

Author: Danielle J. Whittaker

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781421443478

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 277pp

Price: £20.50

If you have ever visited a seabird colony, you will most likely have found that they are remarkable places for their ability to stimulate, or even assault, the senses. Visually, the sight of thousands of birds whirling in the air and thronging on the cliffs is always a treat, and the sounds that go with that can be a raucous, deafening orchestra. But often, the memory of seabird colonies that lingers is the smell. It’s a heady mix of guano, fish and death, but with a little something else... read more

Anthony Wetherhill



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