First ever illustrated world bird classification – previous works have undersold avian diversity by as much as 10%


It’s embargoed until Friday but Hugh Paxton’s Blog is far too childish and excited by this Birdlife Int initiative to wait till Friday! Birds! New birds! Ten percent more birds! New illustrations of birds! This will be great! Probably a bit expensive but great.

The embargo doesn’t prohibit me from telling you the Friday breaking news, and you can send it on.

You just can’t release it unless you feel like it.


From: Ade Long []
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:24 PM
Subject: First ever illustrated world bird classification – previous works have undersold avian diversity by as much as 10%

EMBARGOED until 00:01 GMT Friday August 22nd 2014

First ever illustrated world bird classification – previous works have undersold avian diversity by as much as 10%

Lynx Edicíons and BirdLife International have published the first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. The checklist classification uses new criteria andrecognises 462 new species which were previously treated as ‘races’ of other forms. The new total of 4,549 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by as much as 10%.

As a result today the world has 46 ‘new’ species of parrot, 36 ‘new’ hummingbirds and 26 ‘new’ owls.

The work uses new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species. These criteria are intended to create a level playing field, by which all bird species can be assessed easily and consistently.

‘Blue-bearded Helmetcrest’, may already be extinct

For every bird species in the world there are illustrations and distribution maps, many for the first time.

Containing 357 colour plates, 8,290 bird illustrations and 4,428 distribution maps, the first of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review focuses on non-passerine birds – such as birds of prey, seabirds, waterbirds, parrots and owls.

Many of these prove to be highly threatened, and a few, such as the exotically named ‘Blue-bearded Helmetcrest’, may already be extinct.

Moreover, new areas of the world have been spotlighted for conservation action by this assessment. The Brazilian state of Para, containing the last fragments of the easternmost Amazonian rainforest, becomes a greater priority for conservation. Small islands between Indonesia and the Philippines, remote and little studied, become another. And the densely populated island of Java proves to hold many more unique species than were believed before, and urgently need help.

It is a work that represents yet another high point in the careers of two of the most well-known figures in the bird world: Josep del Hoyo (Director of Lynx Edicions, Editor of Handbook of the Birds of the World; HBW, the seminal 17-volume encyclopaedia) and Nigel Collar (Leventis Fellow in Conservation Biology at BirdLife International). Coming at this enterprise from different professional perspectives that mingle knowledge, experience, science and style—del Hoyo making and gathering video footage of living birds around the planet, Collar spending months in various museums in Europe and the USA—they have produced this large but elegant book just four years after agreeing on the collaboration.

This project is really two works in one. It is a complete checklist whose taxonomy incorporates the most up-to-date information and an exhaustive methodology in a systematic and consistent way. At the same time, it contains illustrations and distribution maps for every bird species in the world, many for the first time. This includes the original artwork from the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) series, as well as hundreds of new illustrations, all in two compact volumes.

For more information, images or interviews please contact:

Ade Long: adrian.long – tel +44 (0)1223 279812 mobile+44 (0)7779018332

Notes for Editors

1. Book samples can be viewed online at

2. BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country – and growing, with almost 11 million supporters, 7000 local conservation groups and 7400 staff. Find out more at /

3. Lynx Edicions and Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) is the first work ever to illustrate and deal in detail with all the living species of birds. The 17-volume encyclopaedia contains texts and illustrations from 277 authors and 33 illustrators from 40 countries. The highly acclaimed series is the starting point for this Checklist, so the project already includes the work of a large group of specialists from around the world.

4. The work compiling the checklist was used by BirdLife for the 2014 IUCN Red List. Of the newly recognised bird species worryingly more than 25% of them have been listed as threatened – compared with 13% of all birds. BirdLife is the Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List.

  1. The taxonomic review involved an examination of published research and museum collections, and looked at the distinctiveness of bird populations by comparing characteristics such as plumage, measurements (biometrics) and songs. The review is based on: Tobias J.A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode C.N., Pilgrim J.D., Fishpool, L.D.C. & Collar N.J. 2010. Quantitative criteria for species delimitation Ibis, doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2010.01051.x