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Brichetti, P. & Fracasso, G. Ornitologia Italiana: 1 Gaviidae-Falconidae. 463 pages, colour illustrations. Bologna, Italy: Alberto Perdisa Editore, 2003. €40.00, ISBN 8883720822.
This book is a concise synthesis of the information available on birds in Italy up to 2002, with emphasis on identification, distribution, movements and abundance. Information is reported by species, with 1–6 pages devoted to each. The book is complementary to the seriesFauna d’Italia, which was originally supposed to cover all Italian species with a format similar to the Birds of the Western Palearctic series. However, the publication of the first volume, 12 years ago, has not yet been followed by a second. Therefore, this more concise and updated version attempts to fill the gap caused by the extremely slow publication of the Fauna d’Italia series.
For each species account, information is organized in ten sections: (1) Biometric data reports, whenever possible, data collected in Italy. For this volume, most Italian data refer to those already published in the Fauna d’Italia volume and thus add little new information. (2) Identification: this is subdivided into three subsections – identification in the field, in-hand and moulting pattern. (3) Distribution provides a brief description, often depicted by one or more maps. (4) Population estimate reports estimates of the national population size and trend for 1995–2002, whenever available. It should be noted that as few species have been studied intensively in Italy, such estimates should only be considered approximate. (5) Habitat lists the major habitat types and the elevation range occupied by the species. (6) Reproduction reports some of the available quantitative estimates of breeding success. (7) Movements roughly outlines the movements, both inside and outside the country, of sedentary, migratory, partially migratory and accidental species. (8) Wintering range describes the species range in winter, usually expressed as the January distribution in the period 1995–2002. (9) Conservation lists the main threats for the species, its conservation status (according to major threat-classification criteria, such as the SPEC-classification, or inclusion in Italian red lists) and past or ongoing re-introduction projects. (10) Cited references. Finally, in addition to the species accounts, the book includes an appendix with an updated checklist of Italian species and a CD-ROM with the Italian recordings of 99 species, each one described in an associated 14-page booklet.
Overall, this is an interesting book that succeeds in its purpose: it provides a well-organized synthesis, which will be particularly useful as a first approach to birds by amateurs, students and even professional ornithologists. I found many of the distribution maps especially captivating and enjoyable, conveying information efficiently, particularly where depicting ‘punctual’ occurrences of well-studied species, or showing distributional changes through time. The many colour photographs are often good and the general presentation style is compelling. The reference list is complete and useful as a start for a more in-depth bibliographic search, though some papers published in English in international journals have received less attention than papers from Italian bibliographic sources. Finally, on the negative side, I found the identification section excessively long: given the clear space-constraints on this type of book, more emphasis could have been devoted to other sections, such as those on distribution, habitat or reproduction.