A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife


More than five years after the first edition of this guide was published in Finland, it has been reborn in the care of A&C Black. Now stabled alongside such worthy Christopher Helm titles as Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World and a companion volume to the Arctic’s fauna, it has perhaps found its natural home. So what’s on offer?

Subtitled The Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent, much of this guide contains detailed species accounts of the South Polar region’s fascinating fauna. With almost 300 pages, the 218 bird species account for more than half of the book, while seals get 33 pages and cetaceans 60 pages. Each species account majors on identification, but also includes summaries of distribution and biology, conservation and taxonomy (a favourite subject of the author), and ocean-going birds and mammals get a range map.

Aiding the identification sections, though also giving much aesthetic value to the book, are the photographs and plates. More than 900 of the former and 35 of the latter add substantially to this guide’s mission to make identification of often similar species straightforward. Many of the photos are Shirihai’s own, and more than 300 are new to this second edition – a useful addition, particularly for some of the more tricky seabird taxa (several of which may yet prove to be species in their own right). Almost every species is now illustrated by high-quality colour photos, and variation in appearance is also well covered.

The text has been revised in places, especially in the case of the tubenoses, and none more so than the great albatrosses. Other recent authors have tended to split rather than lump the albatrosses, a trend largely followed here with the recognition of allospecies.

Bringing up the rear is a useful ‘Regional descriptions’ section, which has a readable overview of the main discrete geographical areas, their wildlife, specific conservation issues, and tips on visiting key locations.

The high page count notwithstanding, it feels like there is so much in the way of information and images in this guide that, despite a refreshed design, it is still rather ‘crammed in’; indeed, several pages of the review copy were trimmed too close to the text. Nonetheless, this former Birdwatch Bird Book of the Year is in better shape than ever, and a must if you are visiting the region.

A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife by Hadoram Shirihai (second edition, A &?C?Black, London, 2007).
• 544 pages, more than 920 colour photos, 128 maps and 35 colour plates.
• ISBN 9780713664065. Hbk, £40.

Available from the Birdwatch Bookshop

First published in Birdwatch (March 2008)