Monday, January 28, 2013

W4: Roadside Birds of South Africa

After trudging through the mystifying text of yesterweek, this 1975 hardcover third printing of Roadside Birds of South Africa by Kenneth Newman was a welcome change of pace. Better yet, it was illustrated! Who doesn't love picture books?

"Where found:"...
At 103 pgs, this book seems quite long for something as specific as South African highway avian life. However, the first third of the book occupies itself with black and white photographs of urban landscape. Makes sense - to publish a book on birds found by the highways of South Africa, one must first establish that said highways do indeed exist. All qualms of South Africa being a bunch of dirt roads and ox-wagons have now been laid to rest, you know, if that's what you were thinking...

In full colour!
Getting into the meat of the book, the odd numbered pages contained the majority of the information on the bird species, including a description with grammatical oddities, an ambiguous silhouette, and a map containing the areas of the habitat for each entry. The facing pages contained the color illustrations, which entertained my fancy now as much as they did when I was in elementary school. Easily amused and easily distracted. Prefacing all this was an in-depth diagram showing the anatomy of a bird, informatively pointing out where the wings, eyes, and back of a bird were located.


What is interesting is that despite being an unwieldy hardcover, this book was meant as a traveler's guide and the back of the book contains not only a checklist of birds seen, but also a "quick identification guide". Unfortunately it's presented as a biology test of sorts. With classifications like "Birds with very long tails", "Black birds", and "Conventional-looking birds", this guide is as useful as a colouring book.

Never seen one in my life.

Book rating: 7/10 (entertaining and somewhat informative)

Random quote: Description of the Helmeted Guineafowl: "These birds are so well-known that a description seems superfluous."


  1. I would love to read this book. When I was young, I used to go to library all the time to borrow all kinds of books on zoology, birds included...

    BTW, this is Guang...

  2. You're welcomed to borrow it. I loved zoology books as a kid too. I remember reading all the Eyewitness books (white covers, tons of pics - in school and being fascinated by the nice layout, informative descriptions, and detailed pictures. This one is nothing like that.

  3. Keep this book as a reference to the wildlife that may not exist today since Man is moving into their environment and habitat. It would be interesting to know how many birds that were featured in this book in 1975 are still there....remember Audubon