The local Bookworld (north of Brisbane) had no knowledge of the 7th edition of
the Simpson and Day
Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, however, the local K-mart had it in
Using my rapidly expiring Coles Myer Shareholders discount Card I was able to
purchase a copy for
AUD$25.60 which is a lot better than the $40+ being charged by Bookworld for
the 6th edition of S &
D and the 7th (duh! I still haven't got over that yet!) edition of the Pizzey
and Knight field
I haven't updated my Australian bird field guides for sometime as I have been
waiting for a truly
new, updated version.
My real hope is for a genuinely updated version of the Slater field guide,
however, I succumbed to
temptation with the S and D job.
I am always a bit suspicious of publishers' claims about the latest printing of
publication being 'completely revised and updated' and in the case of Ver 7 of
S & D I feel I have
some justification in being so.
There certainly are some changes compared to Ver 6, for example, but, by the
same token, some of the
claimed changes for Ver 7 seemed to have occurred already in Ver 6.
For example, the title "Vagrant Bird Bulletin" is not new to Ver 7 having
already had that title in
The difference in Ver 7 is that many of the 'vagrants' which were displayed in
the main body of the
book have been shifted to the 'V B B'.
In some cases an illustration of the vagrant bird has been left on a plate in
the main body of the
book (e.g. Lesser Yellowlegs/Nordmann's Greenshank) and in other cases the
plate has been redrawn
with the vagrant bird omitted (e.g. Black-headed Gull/Franklin's Gull/etc).
Having the two separate sections to refer to may be a little confusing but is
probably the simplest
way of dealing with birds which are at best unlikely to be seen by most birders
and at worst, in
some cases, unlikely to actually have been seen in Australia at all.
There is a claim that "Some additional seabird bills have been drawn" on the
endpapers (inside the front and rear covers). This is a quaint form of
words which may be intended to infer a meaning I have not understood.
My copy of Ver 7 has the same number of bills 'drawn' but one in Ver 6, Royal
Albatross, has been
replaced in Ver 7 with Shy Albatross.
As seems to be the tradition amongst creators of Australian bird field guides,
Ken Simpson seems to
have gone his own way as far as deciding what is a full species and what is not.
The Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) Vol 4
(Parrots to Dollarbirds),
according to my reading, deems Red-collared Lorikeet to be a subspecies
rubritorquis) of Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus).
In Ver 7 of his field guide, Ken Simpson appears to have made Red-collared
Lorikeet into a full
species, Trichoglossus rubritorquis, without any explanation for doing so.
I am sure the twitchers will thank him for that. In fact, it adds one more
species to my life list.
The new book has 58 pages less than Ver 6 thus producing a slightly slimmer and
lighter (by 115
That is not to say that this field guide is all that much more 'portable'.
(But then neither are the 'Pizzey and Knight' and 'Morcombe' competitors.)
The reduction in page numbers has been achieved by deleting some 'chapters' and
compressing some of
the remaining text.
A large part of the Handbook section has been deleted leaving mainly the
section on 'Where Birds
Live' and a highly compressed version of the 'Breeding Information' which
consists mainly of the
'old' bar-charts for the breeding seasons of each species, a feature I find
A few of the colour plates have been completely re-done. The new art-work does
seem to me to be at
least a slight improvement on the originals.
Unfortunately, in the case of the kingfisher pages this re-drawing has created
a slight anomaly.
The entries for the kookaburras/kingfishers have been split by inserting
Dollarbird and Rainbow
Bee-eater midway through the sequence.
I suspect that this was done so that the increased number of illustrations
could more easily be
positioned on the two pages available.
This is somewhat ironical considering the recent discussion thread on
Birding-Aus which seemed to
indicate a significant number of people have trouble location a specific
species in field guides
even where individual birds in a 'group' are arranged in a continuous sequence.
I would suggest that anyone wanting to use this field guide to help identify a
possible South Island
Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO) should think again.
When the original oystercatcher art-work was done the SIPO was probably still
considered to be a
subspecies of the Pied Oystercatcher and so there probably wasn't a real need
to be especially
accurate with the markings on the wings and back. The original illustration of
Oystercatcher in flight actually depicted a SIPO. The back pattern has been
modified in the latest
version to portray that of a Pied Oystercatcher and the text for PO has been
adjusted to reflect
However, the illustration still shows a wing pattern more like a SIPO than a PO.
The entry for SIPO in the Vagrant Bird Bulletin does not mention the obviously
longer bill compared
with the PO; this is, to me, the most striking difference and, when combined
with the obviously
shorter legs, almost guarantees an ID of SIPO.
The 'revision' feature I find to be most welcome is the provision of common
names against the
illustrations in place of the numbers used in previous versions.
This will be especially useful for the less-practiced bird-watcher.
As seems to be 'normal' with revisions and reprints, some of the colours in the
the backgrounds have changed slightly compared with Ver 6.
It seems to me that this has 'worked' well in most cases considering that I was
never really happy
with a lot of the colours used in previous versions of this field guide.
Then again, this is a complaint which is likely to be levelled by someone
against any field guide
regardless of whether art-work or photographs are used to illustrate the birds.
All in all, I would say that this version of 'The Simpson and Day Field Guide
to the Birds of
Australia' is probably the best one so far (I am, after all, the master of the
profound!) and, at
the price I paid, is worthwhile having. However it is not my 'First Choice' for
an Australian bird
Whenever I feel the need to refer to a 'field guide' I usually reach for my
copy of 'Pizzey and
If I want to remind myself what a field guide should look like I take up my
copy of 'Slater' (1989).
11 June 2004
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