Christopher Helm, May 2012. 624 pages, Large octavo, dustwrapper, 40 colour plates by Eustace Barnes, colour photographs, distribution maps.
Kirwan, Guy and Graeme Green.
The New World tropics possess the richest avifauna on Earth, with more than 4000 recorded species, many of which are endemic. Two groups found exclusively in this region are the cotingas and the manakins. Few other families of birds have such widespread appeal; they are much sought-after by birdwatchers for their colourful displays, unusual plumages and, in some cases, great rarity. For scientists, their natural history and behaviour provide fascinating case studies that yield important data in the quest to understand evolutionary biology, while, for taxonomists, elucidating their relationships has proved at times fascinatingly elusive, with many novel and unusual developments.
Two decades ago the species covered in this book were generally considered to comprise two families, but ongoing molecular work has revealed much about the relationships of these birds. One new family has been erected (the Tityridae) and another more widely recognised (Oxyruncidae). These and other results spawned principally by genetic research mean that this diverse assemblage of species is now considered to belong to at least five different families.
This book represents the definitive work on these jewels of the Neotropics, looking in detail at more than l30 species. These range from some of the rarest and most enigmatic birds in the world to some of the best-studied of all tropical species; many are breathtakingly colourful and ornate, but some are dowdy and difficult to see. The authors have leant heavily on the published literature, but have also included many personal, previously unpublished data, based on both field and museum studies. The texts are supported by 34 colour plates by Eustace Barnes, who has also observed many of the species in the field, as well as by detailed distribution maps and approximately 400 stunning photographs that cover all but a tiny handful of species.