The Birds of Costa Rica – Brief review of the new bird guide

The ideal way for me to begin my birding for the New Year 2015

The New Year 2015 brings major changes for Costa Rican birders. In my own case, I had barely recovered from the joy of finally learning how to enter my sightings into Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s eBird database, when the new edition of Garrigues and Dean‘s indispensable bird guide, The Birds of Costa Rica, arrived in my Christmas stocking.

This new edition now supplants the first one, which was a great boon to anyone birding in Costa Rica when it was initially published in 2007. The preface describes in detail the changes made for the new edition, but here is a brief list of my first impressions, as a birder who uses the guide literally on a daily basis.

1.  I love the new range maps with 6 colour codes; the residents have purple and the (northern) migrants have blue, while the range for passage migrants, fewer in number, is marked in yellow. Other colours, not needed so frequently, are for breeding migrants (southern migrants, I think?), casually occurring species (green) and those of unknown status (grey).

2.  The many changes in taxonomy and the considerable number of added species  mean that I am having to learn again where in the book to find certain species. So far, the changes that are most conspicuous when thumbing through are the Piranga tanagers, which are now no longer tanagers and appear after the Grosbeaks, much later in the guide, and the Bananaquit, now placed after the Honeycreepers.

3.  Rarities are now in their own section at the end of the book; I find this to be an excellent idea, weeding out from the main text many species that I do not normally need to use for identification purposes.

4.  Another handy feature is the placement of the Adult Raptors and Vultures in Flight inside the front cover.

5.  Inside the back cover you will now find a very handy Quick-Find Index.

6.  Finally, the guide now includes a Checklist of the Birds of Costa Rica. I shall definitely use this, even though I record all sightings in eBird.

There are many other improvements and additions in this new edition. The Birds of Costa Rica will deservedly continue to be the one indispensable field guide for anyone with even a casual interest in the amazing bird life of this country.

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