The lack of a dedicated bird field guide has long been a frustrating limitation for birdwatchers visiting Ethiopia, which is otherwise one of Africa’s most alluring ornithological destinations, with around 840 species recorded, including at least 15 national endemics. In addition, Ethiopia is the easiest place to seek out another 40-0dd species that are either shared with Eritrea only, or whose range is otherwise limited to less accessible neighbouring countries sich as Sudan or Somalia.
All that has changed with the recent publication of Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe’s Birds of The Horn Of Africa (Helm Field Guides), the first dedicated field guide to this vast region, which is dominated by Ethiopia but also includes Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Socotra. After weeks of waiting, I finally got my hands on a copy today, and I’m please to report that it is fantastic – every species present in the region is illustrated across 213 colour plates that do a great job of capturing the colours and jizz of most distinct plumage variations, and these are accompanied by detailed descriptions and distribution maps. The overall standard and look is very much in line with the same publisher’s superb (and, in my case, very well thumbed) Birds of East Africa, which isn’t too surprising as the titles share two co-authors and are both illustrated by John Gale and Brian Small. I can’t wait for an opportunity to take this portable paperback out into the field, and can recommend it without reservation as the best option for birders visiting Ethiopia.
Published simultaneously by Helm, John Ash & John Atkins’s Birds of Ethiopia & Eritrea is a more specialised hardcover work, a bird atlas that maps the known distribution of a full 872 species across 132 grids, and provides more detailed background information than the field guide when it comes to individual species and to Ethiopian ornithology . It makes no pretence to be a field guide (there are photographs of several endemics but no other illustrations) and is not aimed at casual birders, but it will be an invaluable tool and source of data for regular visitors and residents. In addition, the highly detailed maps and text will be invaluable to anybody trying to maximise a birding itinerary in terms of ticking endemics and other localised species, as well as in assisting with the identification of tricky species.