Great books for whether you’re an experienced bird watcher or a novice

ESTELLE SINKINS takes a look at some great books for birders.

Dr Jack’s Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book by Dr Jack (published by Struik Nature)

YOU definitely do not need to be a birdwatcher to love Dr Jack’s new book, Dr Jack’s Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book.

Picture driven, it features a collection of cartoons that lampoon birds on the basis of their common names. Dr Jack draws on some existing material, but also turns to the renaming of a number of southern African birds for fresh inspiration.

This is the third offering from Dr Jack, who received his National Diploma for Graphic Design at the Pretoria Technikon, and then worked as official artist for South Africa’s National Parks Board. His first book, Dr Jack’s Illustrated South African Byrd Book, was a surprise success that reprinted twice, and was followed a year later by Dr Jack’s Illustrated Second South African Byrd Book.

Now a freelance cartoonist, focusing mainly on the printed media, he has worked for publications throughout the country. He is an active birder himself, based in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, and assists the Lowveld Birding Club with illustrations for their regular newsletters.

Dr Jack’s Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book is targeted specifically at South African twitchers, as well as more relaxed bird watchers and nature lovers in general. It’s fabulous and funny and the perfect affordable gift for the birder in your life who already has everything else.


Roberts Bird Guide by Hugh Chittenden, Greg Davies, Ingrid Weiersbye (published by The John Voelcker Bird Book Fund)

WHETHER you’re an experienced birder or new to the hobby of twitching, you will love the latest edition of the Roberts Bird Guide.

The 2016 edition is the latest in a long line of Roberts Bird books. In December 1935, with very little available on birding in South Africa, the South African Bird Book Fund was formed to produce a complete bird guide for southern Africa under the authorship of Austin Roberts, and illustrated by Norman CK Lighton.

The successful and popular first edition, titled The Birds of South Africa, was published on June 8, 1940.

Now, seventy-six years to be exact, Roberts Bird Guide offers birders information on nearly 1000 species found in southern Africa. This completely reworked edition features all new vivid artwork which details seasonal, age and sexual differences in approximately 240 annotated colour plates. There are also updated distribution maps, breeding and seasonality bars.

The concise but informative species descriptions deal not only with identification but contain delightful and accurate detail of calls and eating habits.

An Afrikaans edition of the book will be published in 2017.


Guide to Birds of the Kruger National Park by Warwick Tarboton and Peter Ryan (published by Penguin Random House Struik)

THE Kruger National Park, one of the largest and best-known conservation areas in the world, supports a remarkable diversity of birdlife.

This attractive guide presents more than 500 species that have been recorded there. Of these, more than 400 of the most common or likely to be seen species are described and supported by full-colour photographs and unique distribution maps based on actual sightings of the birds.

An informative introduction describes the park’s underlying geology, vegetation types, climate and rainfall, and how these dictate bird distribution within the area.

The information has been penned by Warwick Tarboton, a well-known bird expert and past president of BirdLife South Africa, and Peter Ryan, director of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town.


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