I must admit they I absolutely love DK books with their clear images on white backgrounds. They are truly eye-catching publications. Having said that I have never used one in the field. I look forward to trying this one out so let us see what we have here.
The first thing that got my attention is that it is a substantial book! With 480 pages and a weight of 850 grams this is not a pocket size guide. On opening the book, I got blown away with the sheer volume of images contained on each page.
The book focuses on the species more likely to be seen in Britain and Europe though it has an extra section rare birds and a table listing vagrant species. The geographical area covered by this book is Europe and Britain, as you would expect, with little attention paid to the Middle East and North Africa.
Each of the more commonly seen species has a whole page dedicated to it with numerous photographs. For example, the Yellow Wagtail is illustrated with 7 photos plus there are 2 more illustrating similar species that it may be confused with, as well as a distribution map. That is a lot of visual information. A fair amount of text is mixed in with the pictures.
The birds listed amongst the “rare” species have one photo and a short description. The “vagrants” are confined to a table with minimal information.
What I liked about this book
This book is visually pleasing and manages to present a ton of information for the most common species. If you are a new birder or new to birding in Europe, then this field guide is a good choice. I have no doubt that it will help you find, and more importantly identify, the species you are likely to see.
I do like the little diagram that shows the wingbeats in flight – that is a great feature. For those birding in Britain the monthly chart of months when the species has been recorded in the UK will come in very handy.
There are a few things I didn’t like
The distribution maps are rather tiny and are coloured in up to 4 different colours representing seasonal distribution. They are not going to be of any use when trying to pinpoint a particular area where you stand a chance of seeing any species.
I also wonder about the facts and figures printed at the bottom of each full species account. Do you really need those in a field guide? I would prefer that these were removed, and a larger distribution map was included.
Being an older, far-sighted birder, I find the text too small. I would have to keep my glasses readily available!
Final thoughts on Birds of Britain and Europe
This is a really nicely produced book, but SuperBirders are going to want more information on the rarer species. Those are the ones that require some planning, effort, and sometimes luck to see. I would, however, recommend this book to birders from other continents who are unfamiliar with European birds.
Number of pages: 480
Year published: 2020
Published by: DK – Penguin Random House