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RSPB SeabirdsMarianne Taylor

Bloomsbury, £25.00

Showcasing the excellent photography of David Tipling, this book provides up-to-date information on the more common British seabirds. While there is little to excite the experienced ornithologist, this larger than normal format book is aimed at the glossy 'coffee table' market and has text that will inform the general reader and the novice birdwatcher alike.

RSPB Seabirds is organised along taxonomic lines, with related species grouped into chapters arranged in taxonomic order. Each regular British species is comprehensively described, often using data from the FAME project administered in Britain by the RSPB, and is presented according to a standard format. It is well laid out and the information provided is eminently readable with technical language kept to a minimum.

The book covers a wide range of material, dealing with species distribution, population, habitat, behaviour, diet, breeding, movements and migration, as well as discussing future conservation issues and priorities. As the book is supported by the RSPB, a portion of the purchase price goes towards the organisation's conservation work.

The inclusion of illustrative maps, particularly when describing distribution and migration, would have been useful. There are frequent grey boxes that highlight particularly interesting aspects of many of the species, such as 'Ratted Out', which describes the loss of Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) from the Calf of Man due to an invasion of rats; and 'Asbo Gulls', which discusses the conflict between herring gulls and people in many seaside towns.

At the end of each chapter there is information about the less common British species as well as vagrant birds to British shores. Overall, RSPB Seabirds is well written and is an informative summary of the current status of British seabirds that successfully fills a niche between the mundane and the overtly scientific.

Dr Alan Woollhead

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