Sasol Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa, by Ian Sinclair et al.
Sasol Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa is the region’s best-selling, most comprehensively illustrated and trusted field guide. Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton and Peter Ryan have been authoring this title since many years and editions.
BIRD CLASSIFICATION AND NOMENCLATURE
The classification of the world's birds into orders, families and genera attempts to summarise their evolutionary history. Until recently, classification was based largely on morphological similarity, but in recent decades a variety of molecular tools, and particularly the ability to sequence DNA, the blueprint of life, has revolutionised our understanding of bird relationships. This remains a dynamic field of ornithology and the 'final word' is still far from being written, but we are gradually converging on a new, stable classification for birds. The most basic split remains that between the Paleognaths (ratites - ostriches, rheas, Emu, cassowaries and kiwis; tinamous - game bird-like birds confined to South and central America), and the Neognaths (all other birds). Among this latter group, game birds and ducks are distinctly different from the rest, which appear to have radiated rather rapidly, with little consensus about a logical sequence for the orders. Another area of considerable change is among the passerines, the largest order of birds, which contains more than half of all species. Here, many families have been reorganised following molecular evidence showing that many groups based on morphology are incorrect. However, one of the principal aims of any bird field guide is to be user friendly rather than to present a scientifically accurate treatise on the evolutionary and taxonomic relationships of birds. For this reason we have largely retained the traditional ordering system with which the majority of birders are familiar. However, we have commented on the relationships among birds, where appropriate, in the text. Southern Africa has a very long history of ornithology, so it would be reasonable to expect that the avifauna is well known. However, several new taxa have been described over the past two decades, mostly 'splits' relying strongly on molecular data to support them. Compared to the 7th edition of Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa, we have split Yellow-billed from Black Kite, Cinnamon-bellied from Rufous-bellied Tit, and Damara from Black-headed Canary. Roberts splits Lesser Black-backed and Heuglin's Gull: in this case we have followed the most recent taxonomic findings and have lumped the two together. Unlike the previous edition of this book, we have also lumped together Cape Gull Larus vetula and Kelp Gull: even though their skeletal structure differs, there is still no molecular evidence to support the split. The latter two changes are indicative of the ongoing confusion globally regarding the taxonomy of large gulls. Ultimately, evolution is a dynamic, ongoing process, and it is not always feasible to place all individuals or populations into neat species 'boxes'. Given the number of recent splits among, for example, Northern Hemisphere warblers, which were thought to be well known, it is likely that other cryptic species remain to be described among the larks, pipits and cisticolas. It seems that southern African ornithology is set on an exciting track for many years to come.
This is an excerpt from the book: Sasol Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa, by Ian Sinclair et al.
Title: Sasol Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa
Author: Ian Sinclair; Phil Hockey; Warwick Tarboton; Peter Ryan
Publisher: Randomhouse Struik
1st edition. Cape Town, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9781775840992 / ISBN 978-1-77584-099-2
Softcover, 18 x 24 cm, 464 pages, countless illustrations
Sinclair, Ian und Hockey, Phil und Tarboton, Warwick und Ryan, Peter im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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