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Somalia, with seven endemic species, is one of the most important bird areas in Africa; it is also one of the least well-known. Birds of Somalia is a model of its kind and will inspire many other similar volumes. Its essence is to provide an atlas of 654 maps showing the distribution of all the species known from the country; each species account gives where relevant a bird's preferred habitat, its relative abundance, and details of migration, breeding season and clutch size. Much of the ornithological content of the book is based on personal experience. About 70% of the observations on the maps were provided by the authors and they claim to have seen all but one of the 654 birds on the Somali list. Besides adding over 50 first time records to it, they were also responsible for finding and adding to science one new species and four new subspecies of birds in Somalia.
Chapters summarise the available knowledge on bird migration and breeding seasons within Somalia. The records are astonishing when it is considered that they come from such a little-known country. The results of the rather limited amount of ringing carried out in the country are also summarised, and the recoveries of ringed birds are of extreme interest. Christopher Hemming contributes what amounts to a major treatise on the soils and vegetation of Somalia, Carlo Violani and Fausto Barbagli provide a historical review of ornithology and ornithologists, Professor Celia Nyamweru describes the geology, and Peter Robertson gives an up-to-date perspective on the state of bird and habitat conservation and the issues involved.
A magnificent series of coloured plates by Martin Woodcock is included which depict 25 little-known birds special to the region, including the new species and races. There is also a selection of habitat photographs and excellent maps showing the topography, geology and vegetation of the country. There are further lists detailing hybrids, doubtful records, species offshore and borderline and unacceptable records. Of much interest and value to many, including museum workers and those not directly involved in ornithology, will be the gazetteer of localities throughout Somalia. Its value is greatly enhanced by being cross referenced in Somali (with the old and new spellings), English and Italian. Lastly, a full bibliography lists more than 550 titles.
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