Parrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds
Catherine A Toft and Timothy F Wright
University of California Press, £27.95
This book on the colourful avian group complements Joseph Forshaw's 2006 Parrots of the World and both are admirable publications. While Forshaw's book is full of colour illustrations, the Toft and Wright tome has more than 90 colour photographs of parrots in all their wonderful livery. Parrots have a lot to boast about among their 350-odd species, and there could have been twice as many pictures.
This is rather a serious book, written by two US academics who have pored over and read 2,400 scientific studies on parrots (the bibliography runs to 69 pages). I missed having an index, as there were species I wanted to look up, such as the black parrot of Seychelles and the red-necked Amazon.
The book is divided into three parts: first, an introduction to parrots, their diversity and evolution; second, their physiology, morphology and behaviour; and, finally, their mating, life history and populations.
It is scientific – more like a textbook on parrots – but the only one you will need to buy and it's extremely educational.
Anecdotes from personal experience perfectly set the scene of parrot habitats, whether it is the Peruvian rainforest or the highest peaks of New Zealand.
There are comprehensive set pieces on bringing back the kapako from near extinction; another section on colour; and another on 'the model organism', the green-rumped parrotlet.
This is a highly recommended book, a must for all zoological libraries. Sadly, author Cathy Toft died in 2011, but much of her enthusiasm is in the pages.