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BOOK REVIEW

BOOK REVIEW Wildfowl David Cabot The New Naturalist Library, Harper Collins, 2009; 460 pp; £50.00 hardcover; ISBN-13 9780007146581 The New Naturalist series will be well known to many for producing wonderfully comprehensive works on particular issues, places, habitats, species or groups in a format readily digestible by the keen amateur but with the scientific accuracy and detail that makes it an invaluable source to the professional also. The stated aim of the series is ‘to interest the general reader in the wildlife of Britain by recapturing the enquiring spirit of the old naturalists’. With David Cabot’s Wildfowl they have once again admirably achieved their objective. Wildfowl can probably claim the longest association with humans of any group of birds. The vast numbers of geese, swans and ducks that winter in Britain and Ireland presented an important winter food source in bygone times. The annual migration of most species has provided a chronicle of the passing seasons, and the arrival and departure of skeins silhouetted in winter skies no doubt instilled a sense of wonder in observers over the years. In more recent times, sport hunting drew many to the wilds and wetlands, and posed questions as to how many there are, where they come from, how they navigate, etc. The origin of geese in winter was questioned over a millennium ago and the source of barnacle geese was assumed to be ‘from trees that grow over water’, with young birds dropping off in October, those that fall onto land appearing as goose barnacles attached to drift wood. Such questions remained poorly understood into remarkably recent times, and David Cabot was smitten at an early age by both the beauty of wildfowl and the intriguing and poorly understood lifecycle of this diverse group. David has been studying, ringing and counting wildfowl over for over half a century. His fascination with geese took him first to the remote Iniskea Islands of the north Mayo coast in the early 1960s to study wintering barnacle geese and then on a series of expeditions to Greenland to unravel their breeding biology and determine through ringing their annual movements. In this comprehensive Cite as follows: Murphy, P. 2010 Book review: Wildfowl. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 110B, 75. DOI: 10.3318/ BIOE.2010.110.1.75. text, he takes us through their evolution and examines human’s relationship with wildfowl over the years. He then presents the status and distribution of the 56 species of wildfowl that are either native or occur as vagrants or in self-sustaining feral populations within these islands. This species-byspecies account, which forms the major part of the volume, is a valuable distillation of the vast amount of research that has been undertaken on this group in recent decades and presents up-to-date counts for the main sites for each species. This is followed by chapters on social behaviour, feeding ecology and a detailed review of population dynamics. Three case studies are presented dealing with the dynamics of the mute swan, barnacle goose and mallard. The fi nal chapter examines the current trends in wildfowl numbers and presents the case for conservation, looking at both individual species of conservation concern as well as the larger picture of wetland management and the need for international cooperation for these migratory species. Appendices cover the categorisation of the 56 species of waterfowl according to British Ornithologists’ Union and Irish Rare Birds Committee, and a list of non-native and non-self-supporting wildfowl in these islands. A comprehensive reference list and a detailed index are also provided. While there are numerous publications that deal with wildfowl identification and behaviour, such as Ducks, Geese and Swans by Kear (2005), this book presents a holistic overview of wildfowl in Britain and Ireland, filling in details on species distribution and population dynamics, as well as providing an intriguing overview of the group. This is a book that that will become a standard reference text and will be of tremendous value to all with an interest in ornithology. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Royal Irish Academy

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Publisher
Royal Irish Academy
Copyright
Copyright © 2010 RIA
ISSN
0791-7945
eISSN
2009-003X
DOI
10.3318/BIOE.2010.110.1.75
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Wildfowl David Cabot The New Naturalist Library, Harper Collins, 2009; 460 pp; £50.00 hardcover; ISBN-13 9780007146581 The New Naturalist series will be well known to many for producing wonderfully comprehensive works on particular issues, places, habitats, species or groups in a format readily digestible by the keen amateur but with the scientific accuracy and detail that makes it an invaluable source to the professional also. The stated aim of the series is ‘to interest the general reader in the wildlife of Britain by recapturing the enquiring spirit of the old naturalists’. With David Cabot’s Wildfowl they have once again admirably achieved their objective. Wildfowl can probably claim the longest association with humans of any group of birds. The vast numbers of geese, swans and ducks that winter in Britain and Ireland presented an important winter food source in bygone times. The annual migration of most species has provided a chronicle of the passing seasons, and the arrival and departure of skeins silhouetted in winter skies no doubt instilled a sense of wonder in observers over the years. In more recent times, sport hunting drew many to the wilds and wetlands, and posed questions as to how many there are, where they come from, how they navigate, etc. The origin of geese in winter was questioned over a millennium ago and the source of barnacle geese was assumed to be ‘from trees that grow over water’, with young birds dropping off in October, those that fall onto land appearing as goose barnacles attached to drift wood. Such questions remained poorly understood into remarkably recent times, and David Cabot was smitten at an early age by both the beauty of wildfowl and the intriguing and poorly understood lifecycle of this diverse group. David has been studying, ringing and counting wildfowl over for over half a century. His fascination with geese took him first to the remote Iniskea Islands of the north Mayo coast in the early 1960s to study wintering barnacle geese and then on a series of expeditions to Greenland to unravel their breeding biology and determine through ringing their annual movements. In this comprehensive Cite as follows: Murphy, P. 2010 Book review: Wildfowl. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 110B, 75. DOI: 10.3318/ BIOE.2010.110.1.75. text, he takes us through their evolution and examines human’s relationship with wildfowl over the years. He then presents the status and distribution of the 56 species of wildfowl that are either native or occur as vagrants or in self-sustaining feral populations within these islands. This species-byspecies account, which forms the major part of the volume, is a valuable distillation of the vast amount of research that has been undertaken on this group in recent decades and presents up-to-date counts for the main sites for each species. This is followed by chapters on social behaviour, feeding ecology and a detailed review of population dynamics. Three case studies are presented dealing with the dynamics of the mute swan, barnacle goose and mallard. The fi nal chapter examines the current trends in wildfowl numbers and presents the case for conservation, looking at both individual species of conservation concern as well as the larger picture of wetland management and the need for international cooperation for these migratory species. Appendices cover the categorisation of the 56 species of waterfowl according to British Ornithologists’ Union and Irish Rare Birds Committee, and a list of non-native and non-self-supporting wildfowl in these islands. A comprehensive reference list and a detailed index are also provided. While there are numerous publications that deal with wildfowl identification and behaviour, such as Ducks, Geese and Swans by Kear (2005), this book presents a holistic overview of wildfowl in Britain and Ireland, filling in details on species distribution and population dynamics, as well as providing an intriguing overview of the group. This is a book that that will become a standard reference text and will be of tremendous value to all with an interest in ornithology.

Journal

Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish AcademyRoyal Irish Academy

Published: Jan 1, 2010

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