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1 July 2005 Curassows and Related Birds
Daniel M. Brooks
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The following critiques express the opinions of the individual evaluators regarding the strengths, weaknesses, and value of the books they review. As such, the appraisals are subjective assessments and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or any official policy of the American Ornithologists' Union.

Jean Delacour and Dean Amadon, with an updated chapter by Josep del Hoyo and Anna Motis. 2004. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. 476 pp., 52 black-and-white maps and figures, 56 color plates, 6 dichotomous keys. ISBN 84-87334-64-4. Cloth, $75.00.—About 30 years ago, Jean Delacour and Dean Amadon published an elegant book about a cryptic group of tropical gamebirds, about which relatively little was known at the time. They filled that book with every bit of information they could find, from notes scribbled by zoo curators to records of habitat, voice, and other important aspects of natural history scrawled during brief research trips to the birds' native haunts. Most likely, Delacour and Amadon had no idea that these birds, 30 years later, would inspire passionate fervor among Neotropical ornithologists and be among the most studied groups from an autecological standpoint.

Today, the IUCN—Birdlife Cracid Specialist Group (CSG) boasts a list of some 500 correspondents, many of whom are Cracidologists actively working in the field—to this band of dedicated scientists, the original book by Delacour and Amadon has served as a bible. Over the past decade, the CSG has published more than 100 chapters spanning approximately 1,000 pages in four separate trilingual books, as well as a trilingual biannual bulletin (20 volumes containing approximately 50 articles to date). The updated chapter by del Hoyo and Motis in the revised Curassows and Related Birds (2004) is primarily an exhaustive compilation of those works by the CSG. This is not surprising, considering that neither del Hoyo nor Motis has ever done any work on cracids, as evidenced by their absence from the list of more than 700 references at the end of the updated chapter.

The revised Curassows and Related Birds is divided into three major parts. The first (pages 18–206) comprises the original book, including its black-and-white figures. The second part (pages 207–320) consists of color plates from the cracid section in Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW), volume 2, plates from the original book, and some updates (including 15 plates of downy young at the end). The final part (pages 321–476) is the updated chapter by del Hoyo and Motis.

It was feared that this edition would not include individually itemized references but that they would be summarized at the end of each species account, as was done in HBW (also produced by del Hoyo and his company, Lynx Edicions). The problem with that practice is that the individual references cannot be traced, forcing anyone using a Lynx Edicions publication as a source to cite del Hoyo et al. rather than the rightful author. During several conversations with Amadon about this before his death in January 2003, he expressed concern about this. Thankfully, del Hoyo was careful to cite individual references in this book, to avoid Lynx Edicions being viewed as one of a number of scandalous businesses (e.g. Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, etc.) characterized by the wholesale theft of the hard work of others.

One problem with the updated chapter is that some of the information published by the CSG that del Hoyo and Motis attempt to summarize is summarized incorrectly. Without going into too many details, I will provide an example. In the second paragraph on page 339, del Hoyo and Motis state, in relation to the Chaco Chachalaca (Ortalis canicollis) “…only one sighting involved a group of nine birds (Brooks 1997b).” When one checks the cited reference, however, one finds that flocks of nine were actually observed more than once. Such errors may seem trivial, but attention to detail is of the utmost importance when writing a master compilation of published works. Other, more serious, errors include misspelled species names.

Another criticism of this book is that it is not trilingual. Only one species of cracid (the Plain Chachalaca, Ortalis vetula) occurs in the United States (the southern-most three counties of Texas), the other 49 species occurring entirely in Latin America. Therefore, the primary audience for this book is Latinos, whose primary language may not be English. Also, the book's hefty price will make it prohibitively expensive for the libraries where it is needed most. However, many of the Cracidologists using this book will already have web access to the trilingual publications of the CSG, for which the updated chapter by del Hoyo and Motis serves as a good summary.

Daniel M. Brooks "Curassows and Related Birds," The Auk 122(3), 1018-1019, (1 July 2005).[1018:CARB]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 July 2005
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