The reason I bought this book despite the fact that I already have several Australian bird field guides, and do not plan to go there again in the foreseeable future, is because this new edition mentions all the species of the outlying islands. These islands usually get a very much reduced coverage or are neglected alltogether in the other field guides. I should say that the quality of the illustrations of the newly illustrated species is not always optimal, but it is very much better than not having any illustration. And the pictures are such that there is no potential for confusions.
Overall, it strikes me that the new edition has got quite a facelift. Not only has it increased by around 70 pages without losing the advantage of being very compact. There have also been many changes, but it's not all that easy to get an overview. Part of the reason is the fact that the new book has a completely different (or so it seems) sequence. In the first edition, many illustrations seemed rather oversized on the pages. In the new edition, many illustrations have been just a little reduced in size. They are still far from being diminutive. So the overall impression has gained quite a bit. To this comes the fact that now all the birds are faced towards the spine. In the old edition, some faced inward, some outward, giving a somewhat incoherent general impression. In many cases the same (or slightly reduced) illustrations have simply been mirrored. In many other cases, there are completely or partially new page compositions. And many species have been drawn new by Sally Elmer, a new artist who also did the various other corrections in the plates. Finally, the new edition features slightly glossy paper instead of the previous matted one.
So I think this second edition has really gained a lot compared to the previous one.
I am not commenting on the text or the range maps, as I can't judge the changes there. So my review concentrates on the optical changes only. And I would like to show where there is room for improvements.
The book comes with a transparent plastic cover/sleeve. Others may comment whether this is a good solution. It may just be a dust and moisture collector.
First of all, I must say that I am really delighted with the improvements. I could now easily consider taking this book out into the field, whereas I never felt comfortable with the first edition. The main reasons for this change are the better overview one can gain now, thanks to the more consistent arrangement and separation of the illustrations.
This does not mean that there is nothing to criticise, however.
To start, for the Brown Honeyeater, there is a wrong distribution/range map. It is the same as for the Pied Honeyeater above it. I copied the more correct range map from page 298 of the first edition and glued it over the wrong one in my copy. To do this, one needs to reduce the size of the map to about 85 percent for a good fit.
As I had mentioned previously, my main incitement to get this book at this time was the chance to get an overview over the many island species, but also over the introductions there. Overall, I think the book fulfills this quite well. What is lacking is a map that shows the location of all these islands. There would be room on one of the empty "notes" pages for this, or on one of the inside covers. It would not have to be a detailed map, but the immediate rough info would be helpful.
The book does considerably more than to just offer an ID help in systematic sequence. There are also some additional attempts to help, like a special spread for "dry-land waders". This results in a certain amount of redundancy, but I think this was not overdone. The only species I noticed that occurs three times because of this is the Plains Wanderer. It shows up with the quail-like species as well.
As not all the info is duplicated in some cases, it would be helpful to have the page numbers where the same species is dealt with right with the text. This is particularly needed for the flight pictures that are often on separate pages, and not always right in front or following a plate. An extreme case are the woodswallows. Their flight illustrations are on page 257 together with those of some other aerial hunters, but there is no reference to these illustrations on the main woodswallow spread p 344/45.
But even in those cases where the flight illustration is nearby, it would be helpful to get the page number and thus to know that a particular species does have more illustrations. Examples being the quails, button-qualis, kingfishers.
Because there is no such cross-reference, it takes a while before one realizes that this fine guide is lacking some important illustrations. There are quite a few terns that did not get flight pictures. Despite the fact that this would have been possible on the same page if the other illustrations had just been reduced a bit more. And the overly large illustrations (taken over from the first edition) of the "Commic" terns on page 89 could have been reduced so that there would have been space for those species that could not have been fitted on to the other plates.
A range map for the duplicate entry (systematic and by habitat) of the Banded Lapwing is only present in one entry (p 175), but not on the other one (p 98), again without a cross-reference. In addition, I miss some flight illustrations (upper and lower views) for this "common" species. Finally, in this case plus the Masked Lapwing, there is an additional confusion because the same birds are called Plovers on one illustration page (p 175).
Some confusion can also arise from incomplete names like in the case of the flight pictures of the ducks (spread p 144/45, where the addition of "whistling-duck" would be welcome).
One thing that has irritated me from the start, is the fact that the index of the common names is no longer at the end. Instead, there is now an index of the scientific names at the end, with the one for the common names preceding it. As most users are likely to need the index for the common names more often, it would be more convenient if that one were at the end.
Compared to this, it is a rather minor gripe that the sequence of the illustrations on a particular plate does not always follow the sequence of the adjacent text page. As an example, on pages 270/71 the treecreepers are at the bottom of the illustrations but at the top of the text page. Systematic sequence would hardly have been reason enough for this inconsistency.
There is some welcome additional biological information in those cases where room was available. I particularly liked the info on coloration of parrots on pages 224 and 228.
Some species got additional illustrations, like the juv plumage for the White-bellied Sea-Eagle (name changed from the first edition where it is named White-breasted.)
It is interesting to compare the page on the introduced finches of the two editions. Apparently some of the species shown in the first edition, such as the Black-headed Mannikin, the White-winged Wydah, and the colorful Grenadier Weaver have since disappeared again.
It has been mentioned that the new edition includes even species that are only "potentials" for Australia. But I think the number of such cases is so small that omitting them would not have decidedly reduced the size of the book. It does, however, reduce the need to lug along additional guide books for Asian and North American species.
So once again, I really like this new edition. I particularly think the shorebird section has gained tremendously with the new layout.
Despite my critical remarks, this book clearly deserves five stars. The authors and publishers are to be congratulated for the feat that they were able to keep the book really compact despite the many additions and improvement. Well done indeed!