Icelandic Bird Guide

Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson

Idunn 2000
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
If you're a bird-watcher visiting Iceland, the Icelandic Bird Guide is the book you want. It is one of the few works on Iceland birds available in between lightweight pamphlets and much larger photographic and scientific works, but it's also one of the nicest bird guides I've used anywhere. And while it is expensive, for a hardcover with glossy paper and extensive colour photographs it's not that bad — it was 4400 krona (about US$60) in most shops in 2003, and we were lucky to find a copy for 3400.

The Guide covers in turn seabirds (tubenoses, paddlefeet and auks), waders (including herons and rails), gulls (including skuas and terns), waterbirds (wildfowl, divers and grebes), non-passerine landbirds, and passerines. Each section includes an overview of the group, followed by "one page per bird" treatment of the major species and less detailed notes on "rare visitors and vagrants". Useful additions include two page spreads on "plumage of gulls" and "plumage of female ducks", helping with some of the more difficult identification problems.

The eighty species pages begin with a large photo, taking up a third to half the page, and an inset map showing distribution around Iceland. Then there are brief notes on appearance, behavior, call, habitats, and distribution, along with smaller photos illustrating seasonal or age colour variations or the appearance in flight. At the bottom of the page are three "season" lines, showing the times of year at which the species is resident in Iceland, breeding, and with young.

Included at the end of the guide are thirty pages on eggs, a complete four page checklist of Icelandic birds, tips for bird-watchers, an index of English names, and a multilingual table with scientific names and common names in a dozen languages. There's a list of references, along with sources for every photograph. A brief page on bird-watching suggests that "the best time of year [for birdwatching] is from mid-April to the end of June".

My favorite among the birds covered in the Guide? We never saw one, but there's something delightfully twisted about the Iceland Gull, Larus glaucoides, which is a winter visitor to Iceland, migrating there from breeding grounds in Greenland and Baffin Island!

March 2004

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%T Icelandic Bird Guide
%A Hilmarsson, Jóhann Óli
%I Idunn
%D 2000
%O hardcover, index
%G ISBN 9979103795
%P 193pp