The Australian Bird Guide

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The Australian Bird Guide
Australian Bird Guide Cover.jpg
AuthorsPeter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke
IllustratorsJeff Davies, Peter Marsack, Kim Franklin
SubjectAustralian Birds
GenreNature Guide
PublisherCSIRO Publishing

The Australian Bird Guide[1] (The Guide) was published by CSIRO Publishing in 2017 and took almost 8 years to produce. The lead author is Peter Menkhorst along with Danny Rogers and Rohan Clarke. Original illustrations are by Jeff Davis, Peter Marsack and Kim Franklin.

The guide covers a total of 936 species that comprise 747 breeding residents or regular migrants, 29 introduced species and 160 vagrants. These birds are grouped as marine and costal birds, freshwater birds and terrestrial birds and then taxonomically.

Weighing in at almost 1.5 kilograms and with dimensions of 24.6 cm by 17.2 cm and 3.4 cm thick with 576 pages the size and weight of this book makes it more practical as a reference book than a field guide. However, it is structured as a field guide and the authors call it a field guide in the text (see Acknowledgements page 2 and page 3 as examples).


The Guide starts with a two-page visual reference guide giving the page where each bird can be found and is then followed by an alphabetical quick reference guide. Both are useful in assisting in locating the required page for bird identification. In addition there is an extensive index at the back of the book.

This is then followed by details on how the guide was constructed, their sources of information and specifically what area and species were covered. This is followed by sections on identifying birds and on birding in Australia. 

Before the detailed description of species commences there is a guide for birders to the evolution and classification of birds. While this may not be expected in such a work this section “it will get birders thinking”.[2] This section was written by Dr Leo Joseph of the Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation).

The Guide provides detailed maps indicating where a species or sub-species are likely to occur and shading to help identify where the birds are most likely to occur. Several of the reviewers highlighted this feature as a major positive of the guide[3] and the 10,000 Bird review considered the 2 field guides with this feature the best available.[2][4]


The Foreword to The Australian Bird Guide was written by Paul Sullivan, Chief Executive of Birdlife Australia, Australia's peak ornithological body. This foreword states that the authors and artists of this book are considered leaders in their field and that the details of species and sub-species is a first for Australian birds. It also describes how the maps are derived from data collected by thousands of people over many decades to give some of the best distribution maps seen in Australian Guides.[2]

Booktopia sees the Australian Bird Guide as "the most comprehensive field guide to Australian birds ever seen", and is effusive about its colour plates and comprehensive species accounts.[5]

A review of the guide by Chris Watson, Bafta-winning wildlife sound recordist[6] was predominantly positive and includes an interview with Rohan Clark, one of the authors, which helps to understand why this new guide was developed when Australia has a significant number of existing guides. However, it does point out that some of the plates have colour problems and the reviewer is not a fan of including written bird calls. Watson finished the review with “In all truth, this could be the most pointless review I’ve ever written. Everyone is going to buy this book and everyone is going to love it. Enjoy!”[3]

Watson asked Clark in the interview if a smartphone app was being considered and he replied that it was a decision of CSIRO Publishing.

Alan Pearson from the British Bird Guides also reviewed the book and while he did mention the size of the book, overall he was also very enthusiastic about the guide. While the Chris Watson review was critical of the written bird sounds this review thought they had been done very well. Pearson was also critical that the birds full length (size range) was not provided rather it provides wing size, bill length and weight.[2]

Donna Lynn Schulman reviewed this Guide for 10,000 Birds and at the same time compared this guide to the most popular existing Australian bird guides. The author thought that the Australian Bird Guide edged out The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, 9th edition by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight, edited by Sarah Pizzey (2012). [7]  The review thought the index of the Guide was not as good as the Pizzey and Knight guide. The reviewer preferred the Guide because of the “currency of information, denseness of text, and quality and quantity of illustrations. They also state that because of the difference in emphasis of the different guides there are many reasons to own more than one of the guides.[4] This review looked at the following guides in its review:



  1. ^ a b Menkhorst, Peter. The Australian bird guide. Rogers, Danny I., Clarke, Rohan, Davies, J. N. (Jeff N.), Marsack, Peter, Franklin, Kim,. Clayton, Vic. ISBN 978-0-643-09754-4. OCLC 959551110.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Pearson, Alan. "The Australian Bird Guide - BirdGuides". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b Watson, Chris. "The Australian Bird Guide". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b Schulman, Donna Lynn. "10,000 Birds | The Australian Bird Guide: A Review". Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  5. ^ Booktopia review of The Australian Bird Guide. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  6. ^ Wyse, Pascal; Aldred, Jessica (7 June 2008). "Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson chooses his top 10 bird songs". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b Pizzey, Graham, (2012). The field guide to the birds of Australia. Knight, Frank, Pizzey, Sarah (Ninth ed.). Sydney, NSW ; New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 9780732291938. OCLC 505187991.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. ^ Field guide to the birds of Australia. Simpson, Ken, Trusler, Peter. (8th ed.). Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin. 2010. ISBN 9780670072316. OCLC 471354730.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Slater, Peter, (1986). The Slater field guide to Australian birds. Slater, Pat, Slater, Raoul. Dee Why West, NSW: Rigby. ISBN 0727020854. OCLC 17981447.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. ^ Morcombe, Michael K (2003). Field guide to Australian birds (2nd, rev. and updated ed.). Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub. ISBN 174021417X. OCLC 55632177.
  11. ^ "Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales | Whitley Award Winners". Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  12. ^ "The 2018 Australian Book Industry Awards Announced - The Booktopian". The Booktopian. 4 May 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.