Specific identification is the basis of meaningful bird watching as much as of scientific field research. Howsoever significant a field observation, its importance is lost unless the concerned species is correctly identified. For the untutored beginner, good illustrations of birds, preferably in colour, are fundamental.
The truth of this was clearly demonstrated by Hugh Whistler’s pioneering “Popular Handbook of Indian Birds” first published in 1928, in creating and developing an interest in birds and bird-watching among the Indian public. It became so popular that second edition of the book had to be published in 1935, followed soon by a third and forth editions.
Then, the BNHS first published “The Book of Indian Birds” by Salim Ali describing 181 species of the commoner birds, all of which were shown in colour. The popularity of this book, largely due to this feature, enabled it to produce further editions every few years, each edition enlarged progressively by the inclusion of a few more species, till the latest, the 13th, published in 2002 containing the accounts and colour illustrations of 538species.
However, this represents merely a small fraction of our total 1,200+ avifauna, and it was desirable to illustrate many more species if Indian ornithology was to be better served.
Thus, we have this Field Guide, which is a revised edition of “A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent” first published by Salim Ali and S. Dhillon Ripley in 1983.
Now, the Field Guide has 112 plates containing illustrations of 1,251 species. Another 100 odd species/ subspecies are discussed without illustrations.
The Field Guide with colour illustrations and wealth of information, is intended to generate interest in the avian wealth of the Subcontinent in more and more people to experience the joys of bird-watching.
Bombay Natural History Society