Atlas of Amazing Birds

Atlas of Amazing Birds
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Books

Well-known wildlife author/artist Matt Sewell has selected some incredible birds – more than 120 – from all over the world for his latest book.

In his introduction he talks of ‘my personal selection of the most amazing birds in the world—the most beautiful, strange, scary, speedy, and enchanting.’ He also points out that his illustrations – full colour stylised watercolours labelled with both the bird’s common and scientific names – are not to scale (although dimensions of each are provided).

Using the continents as the organisational device, he begins in Europe with 22 birds, which are listed together with a map that labels the countries and an introductory couple of paragraphs. This same format is provided for each of the other six continents.

The accompanying text certainly doesn’t talk down to readers; its conversational style is engaging, humorous on occasion and he’s chosen his words for maximum impact. For example of the European roller he says, ‘impressive flight displays as it twists and turns in the air’; and of the chicks “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.’

Also included is information about whether the bird is migratory.

I particularly liked this description of the Andean cock-of-the-rock, ‘The males are dressed in an effervescent, glowing orange-red with what looks like metallic silver solar panels on their backs.’

And this one really made me smile: “brahiminy starling … has slicked-back hair and a loud and bouncy persona – just like a heartthrob Bollywood movie star.’ That bird is one I recognise from frequent visits to India as are several of the other beauties from the Asia section.

It’s hard to believe but these two African birds come from the same family for as we read ‘one could be going to the ballet, followed by a fancy dinner-party, the other could be a desert sparrow.’

All in all an alluring volume for a wide age range, show-casing some of the avian wonders of the world.

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