Hummingbirds: A Celebration of Nature's Jewels


  • Hummingbirds: A Celebration of Nature's Jewels by Glenn Bartley and Andy Swash (Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2022).
  • 288 pages, colour photographs.
  • ISBN 9780691182124. Hbk, £28.
  • Bookshop from £25

Hummingbirds. What's not to love? A gaudy, hyperactive family of more than 350 species found throughout the Americas, it is one of the most desirable groups of birds anywhere on Earth. Among them are some of the world's must-see birds: think Sword-billed Hummingbird or Marvelous Spatuletail to name but two. And that's before you get to the names – surely there is no better-titled family of birds? Helmetcrests, visorbearers, hillstars, sunangels, pufflegs, mountaineers and metaltails … I could go on.

Unsurprisingly, hummingbirds have been the subject of much literature over the years and any new title covering the family has to be special to stand out from the crowd. Hummingbirds: A Celebration of Nature's Jewels does just that.

Compiled by world-renowned photographer, Glenn Bartley, and revered author, Andy Swash (of WILDGuides), this beautiful coffee-table book addresses the 369 species of hummingbird currently recognised by BirdLife International.

The book focuses on the biology of hummingbirds, their history and evolution (including chapters on bill shapes and iridescent plumages), relationships with humans and conservation. Country by country, the 'Species on the brink' chapter addresses, in detail, those hummingbirds in trouble and the threats that face them.

Bartley and Swash also pen respective chapters on their own experiences with hummingbirds, revealing their own close ties to these birds and profiling some of their fondest memories when searching for them.

A species list, based on the latest BirdLife taxonomy, sees each genus initially illustrated with a single photo before being broken down into individual species, of which each is attributed a very brief account detailing English and scientific names, subspecies, altitude, range text and a simple range map, as well as conservation status.

I would challenge anyone to point out a bird book of any kind that can boast a higher overall quality of images decorating it than Hummingbirds: A Celebration of Nature's Jewels. The imagery throughout is absolutely stunning and testament to the dedication invested by Bartley in honing his skills and techniques when it comes to photographing these notoriously fast-paced birds – some of which are shared inside!

This is a wonderfully detailed book, packed with well-researched information that will both fascinate and educate the reader, as well as draw attention to the conservation challenges that many species now face. The eye for detail throughout, even down to the embossed cover, suitably reflects these diminutive yet perfectly formed birds. Given the book's presentation, its engaging and informative subject matter and the glorious photography throughout, this makes for an ideal gift for just about anyone from the keenest birder to the most passing of nature enthusiasts. It's well worth getting your hands on!

Written by: Josh Jones

Josh Jones manages BirdGuides.com and is Editor of Birdwatch magazine. He is an avid birder and keen all-round naturalist. Follow him on Twitter: @jrmjones