Nightjars and their Allies: The Caprimulgiformes Hardcover – Jul 19 2001
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"Nocturnal birds that were the subject of outlandish superstitions since classical times (it was believed they poisoned and blinded goats by sucking their milk), nightjars and the South American potoos, Australian frogmouths, Australian owlet- nightjars, and oilbirds which are their cousins, are still incompletely understood. Holyoak's magisterial compendium assesses the state of current research, providing bibliography, description, geographical variation, range and status, habitat, food and feeding, behavior, voice, field characters, breeding, conservation, and a list of references for every identified type. Each entry includes a distribution map and a b&w drawing of the bird. The b&w drawings and color plates are by bird illustrator Martin Woodcock."--SciTech Book News
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23 colour plates, numerous halftones, line drawings and mapsSee all Product Description
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"Nightjars and their allies" is a 773-page book, or rather encyclopaedia about the Caprimulgiformes. This "night jar bible" (as the other reviewer called it) is part of a series called "Bird Families of the World", published by Oxford University Press. The volumes published so far only cover a smaller amount of all extant bird families, however. OUP's series is intended to cover essentially the same ground as "Handbook of the Birds of the World" (HBW). If it will succeed is another matter entirely, since the HBW already covers all bird families in 16 volumes and have more photos and colour plates, giving it a very commercial appearance. "Nightjars and their allies" doesn't even come close, and look more like a boring reference work. The editors of the OUP series seem resentful of HBW's success, suggesting that their references really are better! There's nothing wrong with "boring" reference works about nightjars, provided you are an ornithologist with distinctly nocturnal habits, but most libraries would probably prefer the flashier HBW (which covers the Caprimulgiformes in volume five).
That being said, I don't deny that this mastodon book really does cover everything you ever wanted to know about caprimulgiform birds. How about the timing of their radiations in relation to continental drift, clinal patterns of variation in wing-length of Tawny Frogmouths in Australia, the number of beetles consumed by Common Poorwills, or the relation of moult to the annual cycle of nesting and migration in populations of Chuck-Will-Widows nesting at different latitudes (according to Rohwer 1971). And this just in the introductory section!
The species accounts are just as bizarrely detailed as the ones in HBW. I admit I was impressed by the length to which scientists are ready to go in their study of even the most obscure species. Faeces and stomach-content is studied to see what kind of insects the nightjars have devoured, the scientist sometimes subjecting the poor bird to a technique known as "stomach-flushing". Every preserved museum specimen is analyzed to get insights about moulting. Expeditions are launched to the interior of New Guinea to map the exact range of various species. Indiana Jones and the Crocodile Hunter, please sign in to the left! Despite this, some nightjars have managed to escape the attention even of these thorough ornithologists. The elusive New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar is known only from one museum specimen collected in 1880, a confirmed observation in 1998 and...late Quaternary fossils! It's good to know that there are still some mysteries out there (others would include the relationship between consciousness and matter, the existence of God or the election bylaws of the State of New York, but I'm digressing).
In summary, I can only concur with the other reviewer: if you're writing a PhD thesis on oilbirds, frogmouths, potoos, owlet-nightjars or nightjars, this is definitely a must-have. The rest of us are gasping...or busy checking out the photos in HBW, volume 5.
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