softcover; 261 color photos of 228 species from mainland Ecuador and another 23 from its Galapagos Islands; annotated list of 24 birding locations; no range maps
As another mini-guide in a long list of these books, this book does a nice job of selecting birds from about 56 different families. There are 261 color photographs of 251 (14%) of Ecuador's species. Of these, 228 are from mainland Ecuador while the other 23 are found primarily or exclusively on the Galapagos Islands about 600 miles to the west.
To create a small photo guide, these pictures had to be printed a little on the small side, which is true for all the books in this series. Fortunately, nearly all the birds have been cropped to be as large as possible in the photo. As for the quality of the photos, 90-95% are pretty good and show the bird well. The remainder tends to be too dark because of the shadowed canopy or being silhouetted against a bright background. The Long-tailed Tyrant is simply a black silhouette posed atop a high branch while the Wedge-billed Woodcreeper is very dark due to an insufficient flash from the camera.
In all, these photos are good to look through for practicing. For some of the birds, such as many of the flycatchers, the picture won’t help with the more difficult identifications. This book should be viewed as a sampling of birds you may encounter while birding through Ecuador. As a note about the sampling, most of the birds are of the male where notable sexual dimorphism exists. An exception is the Green Honeycreeper where only the female is displayed.
The text given with each photograph consists of a single short paragraph. Nearly all the information focuses on the habitat and the habits of the bird. Except for some of the passerines, very little goes towards describing the bird. But, that stays in tune with this book not being an identification guide. It is an “introduction to Ecuador birds” guide.
There are two notable things about this book. One, it provides a list of 24 different birding localities through Ecuador. These are described in a concise paragraph of where it is, some logistics of getting there, and a few highlighted species to be found. A second notable piece is the inclusion of a photograph of the “San Isidro” owl. The identification of this species, which closely resembles the Black-banded Owl, is still undecided in ornithology. – (written by Jack at Avian Review sample pages, December 2009)