Review of Michael Morcombe Field Guide To Australian Birds

There are over 800 species of birds in Australia.  To be able to correctly identify an unfamiliar species a quality guide is essential.  There are numerous guides to Australian Birds on the market and all are useful.  However after much deliberation the Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds has proven to be an invaluable tool and is arguably the best of the bunch.

First published in a large format, the guide consists of coloured drawings of each species.  I initially thought that this would make identifying the birds more difficult than referring to a photograph, but the opposite has turned out to be the case.  Quite often with photographs, the light can play tricks and the bird’s plumage can appear an entirely different shade to what you have seen.  Markings can be obscured by the reflection of light and it sometimes makes identifying the bird difficult.

The illustrations in the Michael Morcombe Guide depict the colours of the bird very accurately and notes are made when the bird’s plumage or appearance alters slightly from area to area.  If the female or juveniles of a species differ from the male adult, a picture is provided; most photographic guides provide a photo of the male bird in full breeding plumage only.  The difference in breeding and non-breeding plumage is great with some species and this is also pointed out in the Morcombe Guide.

A small map of Australia is located in the information section for each species.  This map is shaded to advise of the bird’s habitat.  The darker shaded areas indicate where the bird is most likely to be located, the lighter shaded areas less likely areas. 

The birds are listed in family groups, as with all other guides.  There is an index using the scientific names for each species and another index using the common names for each species.  At the beginning of each family group of birds, each listed species is shown on the first page or pages (depending on the number of birds in the family), with the common name alongside it and the page number where the more detailed information can be found.

An informative guide to the different family groups and how to use the guide is provided at the beginning of the book, along with illustration depicting parts of a bird’s plumage and a glossary.

It is an excellent guide but the best thing about this particular publication is that it is available in a pocket size guide.  This is very handy indeed and can be taken on field or camping trips without having to drag out the larger book.  This pocket guide has all the features of the larger book.  Titled Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds Complete Compact Edition, it is an invaluable guide.

Both the above mentioned books can be used as tools to identify any of the Australian bird species.  However, you may wish to have a book that contains photographs of all the Australian birds.  Maybe not to use so much as a field guide, but more of a reference book.

The Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds is an out of date publication, but was an expensive book when first released.  It is a large book containing hundreds of photos of almost every Australian Bird species.  Published at a time before digital photography, many of the birds are depicted on their nests or feeding their young; a practice that is frowned upon today.  There are some magnificent photographs in this book and my copy has been reread many times.

As mentioned above it is now out of date, but copies can still be obtained from second hand book dealers and of course, EBay.

To be able to enjoy bird watching or bird photography fully, a quality guide is essential.  Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds and the Complete Compact Edition are exceptional publications and will assist you with identifying any Australian species.