Volume 153, Issue 2, pages 440–458, April 2011

Book Reviews


Brichetti, P. & Fracasso, G. Ornitologia Italiana: Identificazione, Distribuzione, Consistenza e Movimenti degli Uccelli Italiani. Vol. 6 Sylviidae. 493 pages, numerous colour photographs, maps, colour and black-and-white figures and tables; CD-ROM + 14-page booklet: Vocalizzazioni specie nidificanti 4. Passeriformes (Oriolidae–Emberizidae ). Oasi Alberto Perdisa Editore, 2011. Hardback, €48.00, ISBN 978-88-8372- 510-4. Website http://www.gruppoperdisaeditore.it.

The ambitious project of summarizing all the basic information on the Italian avifauna moves forward apace. In this sixth volume of the series Ornitologia Italiana, the first volume of which was published in 2003 and reviewed in Ibis 147: 228–229, Pierandrea Brichetti and Giancarlo Fracasso present 48 species belonging to three families of passerines: Sylviidae (45 species of six genera), Timaliidae (the naturalized Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea) and Paradoxornithidae (Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus and another naturalized species, Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus, both of which belong to the Timaliidae, according to other authors).

Most of the information is based on Italian ornithological literature and unpublished data, sometimes complemented by references to well-known general ornithological books to fill gaps. For every species, the authors provide data on body measurements and weights recorded at different Italian ringing stations and describe in detail the key features for identification (very useful for both birdwatchers and bird-ringers). Much attention is also paid to the distribution of species and subspecies and estimates of both breeding and wintering populations throughout the country (Corsica is included for zoogeographical reasons). It is worth highlighting the section on bird movements, based on both published and unpublished records of ringed birds. Habitat and reproduction are also covered, while conservation is addressed with a brief note. There are sonograms in the text, but sound recordings for the warblers and Bearded Tit are to be found on the CD accompanying volume 5 of this work (for details, see below).

Superb bird photographs accompany the text of each species. Yet this is not a book of creative photography and the images are presented primarily to aid identification, though a bonus is that several show display-postures, and the effort put into gathering so many beautiful shots is truly remarkable, especially considering the elusiveness of most species. Rather detailed maps of distribution are presented for each species, often accompanied by others that visualize movements documented by ringers. To help with the identification of the most difficult species (e.g. Acrocephalus spp. and Phylloscopus spp.), there are comparative tables with diagnostic features (for ringers). The book also covers vagrant species listed by the Italian Ornithological Committee.

This volume will certainly interest most Italian ornithologists. It reviews a large body of literature from many different sources, from international scientific journals to local ornithological publications. One of the merits of this series of books is precisely that of ‘rescuing’ information that would otherwise be easily overlooked and forgotten. Indeed, the amount of data published from the 1970s onwards is really surprising. Comparisons of historical estimates of population size and distribution with current data reveal patterns that are most informative for bird conservation. For example, the reader learns that the populations of Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria, Orphean WarblerSylvia hortensis and Bearded Tit have shrunk dramatically, and only a few species have increased, such as Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti, which has expanded its geographical range.

The fact that the book is written in Italian obviously makes it more accessible to local birdwatchers and non-professional ringers. This is important, because the information provided by amateur ornithologists has proved to be extremely valuable when surveying the status and distribution of bird populations across wide geographical ranges, and this book will motivate many to continue their efforts in Italy. However, the book is also worth consulting by everyone interested in the Italian avifauna (an updated checklist partly translated into English appears on page 471) or in a comprehensive review of the literature available for each species. A suggestion for forthcoming volumes (the series is planned to be completed in nine) and possible updates of the earlier ones may be to enlarge the section on conservation, summarizing the relevant information on population size, distribution and habitat use, to give the reader a quicker idea of the situation of each species. Also, the Introduction could be expanded, adding some general qualitative analyses and considerations at family level that would help to put in a wider context the specific information presented later.

Vittorio Baglione & Daniela Canestrari