Reviewed by Frank Lambert on November 4th, 2016.
This important bird guide covers Ethiopia and the African countries bordering the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – often referred to as the Horn of Africa – as well as the Socotra archipelago. Most birders are unlikely to ever visit Somalia or Eritrea, or even the small country of Djibouti, but Ethiopia has become a very important birding destination and this guide is the best available by far.
Birds of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Socotra is a fully modern field guide, with stunning colour plates (213 in all, with 2,600 illustrations), a detailed distribution map for each species (much more detailed than the majority of field guides), and has the species accounts facing the relevant text and map. The text includes key identification features, along with information on similar species, geographical variation, habitat, status, and voice. The first edition of the Birds of the Horn of Africa is widely regarded as the best field guide to the more than 1,000 species of resident, migrant, and vagrant birds found in northeast Africa, and has been widely reviewed.
The second edition of this guide was published in the UK in 2011, and has now been published for the first time in the USA by Princeton University Press. In my opinion, the second edition is a significant improvement over the first, and includes the following changes:
- Seven plates have been replaced entirely (the six Estrildid finch plates and one gull plate), and there are also more than 20 new or replaced individual images
- Minor adjustments have been made to dozens of other images
- About 200 maps have had minor tweaks (mainly ranges in Somaliland and Djibouti which are now better known)
- All the maps have been improved with regard to colours and shading
- There are many text corrections in light of new information (mainly distributional, but also information on identification and some taxonomic changes)
- Key ID features in the text are now given more prominence by being in semi-bold italics
- Three new vagrants to the region have been added
- Simple checklist at the end has been replaced by an annotated distributional checklist (by country) – making this section 16 pages longer than in the first edition
- There is a new comparison table for large white-headed gulls, added as an appendix
Even if you own the first edition, with so many improvements the second edition of Birds of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Socotra is worth owning if you are particularly interested in the avifauna of Africa. If you are going to visit Ethiopia, or any of the other countries covered by this guide, it would certainly be worthwhile taking this newer edition. This is an outstanding field guide.