Birds of the Western Palearctic

A library for ornithologists…

Birds of the Western Palearctic

If you can afford them, then anyone that is keen to fill space on their bookshelves with an authoritative set of volumes on the avifauna of the Western Palearctic or any sub-region of that area, should be purchasing the BWP.

Birds of the Western Palearctic, volume IV

Birds of the Western Palearctic, volume IV

Birds of the Western Palearctic, or to give its full title- Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic, or BWP for short, was a masterful exercise in producing a comprehensive regional guide to the birds of a particular region, in this case, the Western Palearctic. I have the complete nine volumes however a two volume concise edition was published in 1998, I don’t have that as I have no need for it.

Obviously there have been advances in our knowledge of some of these species. For example various taxonomic changes have taken place in the intervening years.

Following the release of volume IX of BWP, from 1997-2004, there were published updates- BWP Update. These would occasionally include improved plates showing some species, but can be a tad difficult to get hold of now.

There were also a couple of electronic versions released and a fair amount of the text can be found online, but there is little to actually beat the not-inconsiderable heft of the full nine volume set.

Pages from Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume IX Buntings and New World Warblers

Pages from Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume IX Buntings and New World Warblers

Not only are these large and heavy volumes, but they are not cheap either. Remarkably, soon after the final volume was published in 1994, I was able to pick up the entire nine volume set at a remaindered price of twenty five quid! For me, it was the bargain of the decade.

The Handbook of British Birds, (published 1938-41) by HF Witherby et al were masterful works in their time. I have four of the five volumes published. Pioneering as they were, they set a standard that BWP more than supplanted

The Handbook of British Birds, (published 1938-41) by HF Witherby et al were masterful works in their time. I have four of the five volumes published. Pioneering as they were, they set a standard that BWP more than supplanted

Be warned, these books are not easy to wade through. You have to understand their layout and deal with the constant referencing in the text. The printed sonograms are also now largely superfluous as there are excellent aural guides now available. The region chosen, the Western Palearctic is somewhat arbitrary as birds do not see geographical barriers beyond extensive mountain ranges of oceans, and even then, not for all species. But still, they are masterful reference works and signify a massive step-forward from the pioneering work produced by earlier ornithologists such as Witherby and Jourdain.

Books in featured image:

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume I. Ostriches to Ducks. Edited by: Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press, 1977: ISBN 978-0-19-857358-6, 722 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume II Hawks to Bustards. Edited by: Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press, 1980: ISBN 978-0-19-857505-4, 696 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume III Waders to Gulls. Edited by: Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press, 1983: ISBN 978-0-19-857506-1, 913 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume IV Terns to Woodpeckers. Edited by: Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press, 1985: ISBN 978-0-19-857507-8, 960 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western PalearcticVolume V Tyrant Flycatchers to Thrushes. Edited by: Stanley Cramp. Oxford University Press, 1988: ISBN 978-0-19-857508-5, 1136 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume VI. Warblers. Edited by: Stanley Cramp and Duncan J Brooks. Oxford University Press, 1992: ISBN 978-0-19-857509-2, 760 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western PalearcticVolume VII. Flycatchers to Shrikes. Edited by: Stanley Cramp, Christopher M Perrins and Duncan J Brooks. Oxford University Press, 1993: ISBN 978-0-19-857510-8, 610 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume VIII. Crows to Finches. Edited by: Stanley Cramp, Christopher M Perrins and Duncan J Brooks. Oxford University Press, 1994: ISBN 978-0-19-854679-5, 956 pages

Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume IX, Buntings and New World Warblers. Edited by: Stanley Cramp, Christopher M Perrins and Duncan J Brooks. Oxford University Press, 1994: ISBN 978-0-19-854843-0, 522 pages

BWP, find space for it on your bookshelves...

BWP, find space for it on your bookshelves…

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