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A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica [Paperback]

Alexander F. Gary Stiles , Alexander F. Skutch , Dana Gardner
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 22 1989 0801496004 978-0801496004 1

Costa Rica, a country of no larger than West Virginia, hosts more than 830 species of birds, more than in all of North Amerian north of Mexico. It may well be the only country in the world with as many bird species and habitats to be found in such a small area. Within two hours' drive from San Jose, one can see quetzals in highland forests, antbirds in lowland forests, or shorebirds and ibises in mangrove swamps.

This lavishly illustrated book is the most comprehensive treatment of a rich tropical avifauna ever presented in a single volume suitable for its use in the field. With is full coverage of waterbirds and migrants as well as resident tropical species, and its coverage of such topics as plumages, vocalizations, food habits, nesting, and distribution, it is truly a guide to the birds themselves, not merely a guide to their identification.

Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch first set the stage for the birds by briefly describing the landforms, vegetation, and climates of Costa Rica. For those who want to take "that second long look" to interpret what they see, the authors discuss some aspects of evolution, ecology, and behavior of Costa Rican birds, and report on the costly and courageous conservation efforts the country is making in face of discouraging odds. The family and species accounts that follow, covering some 400 pages, make up the bulk of the book, with 52 magnificent color plates illustrating virtually ever species of Costa Rican bird, migrants as well as residents. There are also practical tips for trips in the field and descriptions of good birding locations, with specific directions for travel by car, public transport, and on foot, as well as three maps.

A highly readable, portable encylopedia to the fascinating, ever-surprising birds of Costa Rica, this book will be welcomed by birders and other naturalists, professional and amateur ornithologists, ecologists, travelers, and conservationlists throughout the northern Neotropics.

Frequently Bought Together

A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica + The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide + Costa Rica (Adventure Map)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 58.19

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Product Details

Product Description

From Library Journal

Comstock: Cornell Univ. Pr. Oct. 1989. c.656p. permanent paper. illus. maps. bibliog. index. LC 88-43444. ISBN 0-8014-2287-6. $65; pap. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4. $35. ref This is a superior field guide to a country with one of the richest assortments of bird life anywhere. Written and illustrated by top experts, this book has it all: 52 excellent color plates, detailed species accounts, brief write-ups of 70 birding localities, and extensive introductory materials, often skimped on in books of this genre, on geography, climate, habitats, and conservation, accompanied by helpful photographs. Costa Rica has a fine park system and has long been the most popular Central American country for visiting naturalists. Since the destruction of natural areas in the Neotropics is finally receiving the publicity it deserves, books such as this are urgently needed. It is the first Costa Rican bird book since Paul Slud's The Birds of Costa Rica (1964. o.p.), a respected but unillustrated monograph. A splendid job. Highly recommended.
- Henry T. Armistead, Thomas Jefferson Univ. Lib., Philadelphia
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birds of Costa Rica - a must-have April 4 2007
This book is a "must" for Costa Rican birders - at least until the reviews are in on the new "Helm Guide" by Richard Garrigues due out in June 2007. That said, there are a few age-related drawbacks to Skutch's tome that should be borne in mind. Range information is quite out-of-date. For example, there is no mention of the Sandwich Tern colony that exists off Manuel Antonio National Park. Melodious Blackbird is treated as extremely rare, whereas it is now quite common. Maps included in the book are also quite antiquated. The user should obtain a separate highway map of Costa Rica. There are no species range maps, and the range descriptions given are a bit difficult to get used to. (Range maps for mountainous countries are difficult anyway, since range is often as much about elevation as it is about latitude). DO NOT cut out the plates and ignore the text! The range information in the text is essential to identifying many species. Moreover, it tends to be more accurate than the cursory range information included with the plates. The illustrations are generally very good, but not up to modern standards. In particular, pay attention to the WRITTEN descriptions of the birds, which are quite accurate. This is especially important when considering the SIZE of the bird, since the plates are NOT drawn "to scale" and birds illustrated as being the same size might not be so in real life. These are small quibbles, however. This book is generally very good to excellent. If you are a birder, you need this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book of my dream! Jan. 28 2004
Like all the readers before me, I found this book unbelievably complete and thorough, compeling and mesmerizing. The color llustrations are beautifull. The text his precise and informative, from an overview of each bird family to description, habits, voice, nest, status and range of each bird. An absolute must-have for any bird- or Costa Rica lovers! A hundred times the informations in the Birds of North America... (which I still really really like!)
Like the Quetzal calls: "very good, very good..."!
The book is a bit heavy and I agree you should remove the central plates and only bring the illustrations on your field trip.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Birding at its Best Feb. 13 2003
Costa Rica is a bird watching paradise. I ought to know - my wife and I wrote the guidebook, "Adventure Guide to Costa Rica," and we payed special attention to birding spots around the country. Please check our book out as well. Bird watching may be the perfect eco-tourism activity because of its low environmental impact as well as its benefit to the local economy. Gary Stiles title is a very helpful guide for both experienced and amateur birders and the color plates aids in identifying indigenous and transient species. Thorough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good book Oct. 28 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Im a Stutch fan, and this book is great. old standard. Does not have range maps, unfortunately.

Also, not sure why but a bunch of the colour plates were cropped - so bits of some birds are missing. Makes it look like some cheap black-market reproduction. I cross compared with a book purchased in Costa Rica, and it had the same issue, but I can't imagine the original printings were like dat.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Its a good field guide! March 30 2002
Just back from 2 week guided tour to Costa Rica. This was a tour featured as "Nature's Museum" and led by a trained biologist that was good on bird ID, though his time was demanded more for logistics and keeping everyone of our 26 tourists happy by hitting the majors such as monkeys, butterflys, and birds like Quetzels, Motmots, and Toucans. I found the Stiles and Skutch guide to be most helpful. Recommend that a new user, read all of the general information just prior to a visit to the country. Also read in advance, the descriptions of bird families and look thru the plates to get a feel for birds you might see. Then when in the field, you can easily scan the plates, and check out the narrative descriptions, including their habits and ranges. Though this was not a bird trip, we did pick up 150 species that we felt comfortable on ID and perhaps a dozen unknowns mostly because of only flighting glimpes. About half were first called out by the local guides and the others by ourselves with help of the book. I find this book's info. on bird ranges to be most useful especially for neotropical migrants for which our North American guides generally ignore wintering areas south of US. One note of caution, is that the color plates aren't always perfect, for instance the tree swallow is too green, the palm tanager a bit too drab, and variants are not shown. Looks like there is room for a next generation "Sibleyian" guide to birds in central America.
If you have a more casual interest in birds, you may be more happy with "A Pocket Wildlife Guide" for Costa Rica, published by Rainforests Pub.,... commonly available locally in Costa Rica. It has nice color plates of common birds, butterflys, reptiles, and mammals.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't leave home without it. April 2 1999
By A Customer
Having lived in Costa Rica since prior to the publication of "the book," I can attest to what a joy it is to have all the bird life under one cover, so to speak. (We used to have to tote 3 different volumes into the field!) Still, some find this one book too much to be burdened with and (as another reviewer has mentioned) pull out the colored plates from the book's center. I wholeheartedly recommend this procedure, but with one difference: take the text into the field and leave the plates at home (no offense, Dana). While the paintings are of passable quality, the information contained in the text is nothing short of superlative. No one would ever be able to distinguish between, let's say, a Rufous Piha and a Rufous Mourner by looking at the illustrations. The text, however, gives some very useful pointers, including vocalizations, that just might solve your identification quandary. But the bottom line is, if you're going birding in Costa Rica, don't leave home without it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Book I Refer to the Most
I have lived on the Pacific of Costa Rica for 5 years and find myself constantly referring to this book - one that was recommended to me by virtually every person I spoke to who... Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by Nony A. Mouse
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best
This book along with the essay collection "Costa Rica : The Last Country the Gods Made" should be owned by anyone who loves Costa Rica, even if they think they despise nature... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic and Useful
It is hard to add much to the reviews provided by readers. The book is a superb guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2003 by z
5.0 out of 5 stars Working with birds in Costa Rica
Excellent book, invaluable for field and in-hand identification of birds in Costa Rica. If I could offer criticism, we need a more up to date edition (many species' range... Read more
Published on April 15 2003 by Rachel Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars great pictures and info
We bought this for our trip to Costa Rica after a friend who had been there recommended it to us. We haven't gone on our trip yet but are looking forward to using this book when... Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2002 by merrymousies
4.0 out of 5 stars Birds of Costa Rica
This is the best book for birding in Costa Rica but it is far too big and heavy to be an ideal field guide. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2000 by John G Lumb
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible for whoever goes Bird-watching in Costa Rica
A guide with everything you'd possibly wish for. The only thing left after having read this book is go out and watch them, and use this book to easily identify them. Read more
Published on June 27 1999 by Martin_Pruimers@bigfoot.com
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