Monday, October 6, 2008

Albatrosses (Australian Natural History Series)

This slim but eminently readable paperback by zoologist Terence Lindsey offers an excellent introduction to the beautiful but in many way utterly mysterious world of the albatrosses. There is thoughtful discussion of adaptations that allow albatrosses to thrive in the seemingly inhospitable Southern Ocean and the challenges that face researchers and conservationists. Lindsey discusses the fluctuating taxonomy - 13 species becoming 24 almost overnight - balancing the pros and cons of this deliberate move.

Lindsey is well-known in Australia for his numerous writings on natural history and the TV programs he has written/directed. His style is personable and on occasion, amusingly quirky. In reviewing the difficulties of studying albatross feeding habits Lindsey describes early study methods as follows: "All you need is a bucket, something to serve as a sorting tray and a can of cat food. You visit a chick on its nest, wait for the parent to return and feed it, upend the chick over the bucket and induce it to disgorge, feed it the contents of the can (to compensate for the lost meal), tip the bucket into the sorting tray, and start sifting through the mess trying to find something identifiable."

Although the book is aimed at the general reader rather than professional ornithologist, it is pleasing to see that almost 18 pages are given to a comprehensive list of source material, mainly articles in the primary research literature.

Other volumes in this extensive series on Australian wildlife include: Bowerbirds (Rowland), Wedge-tailed Eagle (Olson), Kookaburra (Legge), Tree-kangaroos (Martin), Gliders (Lindenmayer), Echidna (Augee), Great Whales (Bannister), Australian native mice and rats (Breed & Ford), Cockatoos (Cameron), Bettongs, Potoroos and the Musky rat-kangaroo (Claridge), Kangaroos (Dawson), Platypus (Grant), Flying Foxes (Hall and Richards), Seasnakes (Heatwole), Mallee fowl, Brush turkeys and Scrubfowl (Jones & Goth), Australian Magpie (Kaplan), Tawny Frogmouth (Kaplan) and more.

Title: Albatrosses (Australian Natural History Series)
Author: Terence Lindsey
Publication Date: June 2008
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.
ISBN-13: 9780643094215
Paperback, 139 pages, 24 x 17 cm, numerous color and black-and-white photographs, line diagrams.
Retail Price: AU $39.95

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