Field Guide to the Birds of Chile. Daniel E. Martínez Piña and Gonzalo E. González Cifuentes. 2021. HELM-Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, UK (in the USA, Published by Princeton University Press). Binding options, weight and ISBN: Hardcover, 1.21 pounds (ISBN 13, 978-1472987426 UK), Paperback, 0.95 pounds (ISBN 13, 978-1472970008 UK), Flexibound, 0.95 pounds (ISBN 13, 978-0691221052 USA). Prices (USA): $49 (Hardcover), $29.95 (Flexibound), $33.20 (Paper) $36 (Kindle). Dimensions: 8.74 x 0.87 x 5.59 inches. Illustrations: paintings. Pages: 224.
This review was made on the basis of an electronic copy, so some information was obtained from the publisher and seller web pages, or from collaborators who have it printed, to whom I thank. The Field Guide to the Birds of Chile describes 468 species (illustrated by one of the authors), including those recorded at least five times in the Chilean territory. This guide is a reworked edition of Spanish language texts by the same authors (Martínez & González 2004, 2017), where the most important change (besides language) is that only the guide function was retained, reducing pages and weight on a half. I’m an avid user of “Las aves de Chile. Nueva guía de campo” (2004), which was a great improvement in Chile’s bird library for many reasons, mostly for the excellent illustrations and descriptions it contained, along with useful natural history data on all species. But this 620 pp book (and the same applies to its 2nd edition in 2017) is a manual and guide at the same time, too heavy to be carried into the field. I celebrate the English translation and reduction in pages (from over 500 to 224), which turn the Field Guide to the Birds of Chile into a very good option as a companion on any trip to Chile (and the adjacent forests of southern Argentina) for those interested in birds, mainly for non-Spanish speakers.
The thematic index contains one column with plate numbers and an adjacent column with page ranges. The index is followed by 17 pages with introductory text that develops topics like taxonomy, Chile’s geography and environments, bird topography, and organization and coverage of the guide. The content of this section is relevant, with the exception of a handful of bird pictures with an uncertain role other that artistic enrichment. Next comes the identification section (pp:18-185) with 89 color plates illustrating every species, with text and distribution maps on facing pages for quick and easy reference.
I appreciate the broad organization of the identification section in seabirds, waterfowl and land bird families, based on the premise that identification by readers will be easier if birds that live in similar environments are shown together, which is explained by the authors under the “structure of the book” title. Like with any choice made while designing a field guide, this may have supporters (like me) and opponents, as it may disorient those who are used to the taxonomic family arrangement applied in many guides, including others of the Helm collection (e.g., the almost contemporaneous Birds of Argentina, by Pearman & Areta 2020).
After the species accounts the authors include supplementary materials consisting of: 1) illustrations of Chilean bird eggs represented to scale (it is not exhaustive but a very complete compendium, which is rare to find in local literature); 2) accounts and drawings for extreme vagrant species, 3) a list (common and scientific names) of the endemic birds of Chile; 4) a list of threatened bird species in the country (considering any level of threat assigned by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species); 5) a checklist of the birds in the country; 6) a combined -common and scientific names- detailed alphabetic index; and 7) a quick index to the main groups of birds. Scattered through the supplementary materials are nice quality pictures of birds that are representative of Chile.
Concerning the content quality (technical information, identification criteria, etc.), the last Spanish version received very good comments from an experienced Chilean ornithologist (Tala 2017). I do not hesitate to back up these comments and extend them to this English condensed version, and I also think the illustrations are an outstanding contribution. The species accounts include key identification features for the main variants such as sexes and age classes (if applicable), habitat, voice (the most common voices or songs given by the species) and a “where to see” subtitle (environments, regions, or specific locations are mentioned), also detailing whether the species will be more probably detected by voice than by sight; small but accurate distribution maps are also provided (by fortune, along within the species account, not at the end of the book, a very inconvenient format chosen in some guides). The visual design of the written information (species accounts) is attractive and practical, despite much text for some species, particularly under the “voice” subtitle, which is not very usual (most field guides in the region barely mention vocal recognition tips).
Habitat heterogeneity and isolated evolution after the Andean uplift have resulted in notably high avian diversity and endemism within the Chilean territory, which merits carrying a printed guide if planning to travel across the country or to stay at a specific area; it may even serve for traveling next door to the forest area of southern Argentina, as most species are shared by both countries. There are other highly authorized bird field guides for Chile (including English and Spanish versions), and I will not dare ranking them because I love using them all, but I will surely get my hard copy of the Martinez & González guide as soon as I can.
Valeria S. Ojeda
Instituto de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Medio Ambiente (INIBIOMA, Universidad Nacional del Comahue-CONICET)
Quintral 1250, 8400-Bariloche,
Río Negro, Argentina.
- Martínez- Piña D. & G. González – Cifuentes. 2004. Las aves de Chile. Nueva guía de campo. Ediciones del Naturalista, Santiago. 620 pp
- Martínez- Piña D. & G. González – Cifuentes. 2017. Aves de Chile. Guía de Campo y Breve Historia Natural. Ediciones del Naturalista. Santiago, Chile. 538 pp
- Pearman, M. & J. I. Areta. 2020. Birds of Argentina and the South-west Atlantic. HELM-Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, UK. 478 pp.
- Tala, C. 2018. Comentarios de libros: Aves de Chile. Guía de Campo y Breve Historia Natural. Revista Chilena de Ornitología 24:51.
Header photo: Red-legged Cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi), Jorge Tomasevic
Ojeda, V. 2023. Review of the book Field Guide to the Birds of Chile by Daniel E. Martínez Piña and Gonzalo E. González Cifuentes. Association of Field Ornithologists Book Review. https://afonet.org/2023/05/field-guide-to-the-birds-of-chile/.
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