Review of “Garden Birds in Southern Africa by Duncan Butchart

Cover of Garden Birds in Southern Africa

Title: Garden Birds in Southern Africa
Author: Duncan Butchart
Number of pages: 192
Year published: 2017
Published by: Struik Nature
ISBN: 978-1-77584-474-7

Over the years there have been a few books describing garden birds in South or southern Africa but this one is the best so far. It is a beautifully designed book and is jam packed with useful information. Duncan Butchart is an accomplished wildlife photographer and has authored, and co-authored, several books. Two books that I have in my library are the magnificent “The Vultures of Africa” of which he was a co-author, and “Wildlife of the Cape Peninsula.”

The book is divided into a number of sections describing gardening for birds, a general overview of birds, the birds themselves and the plants that you may wish to include in your garden. The focus is naturally on the birds and 101 species have been included. The choice of species is quite good and covers most of the birds that I have had in my garden. For each species there are at least two photos and notes on its general behaviour, feeding habits, breeding, garden needs and similar species. Some of the species have an additional photo of a similar bird or another species of interest. One thing that I found interesting was the birds lifespan. You will never really know how long your garden birds for, but it is a fascinating bit of information to know.

The photographs, taken by Duncan Butchart and others, are beautiful! My personal favourite is the cover photo of an African Paradise Flycatcher perched on a garden tap. Somehow it just highlights how many species of birds have adapted to our gardens. I also like the photos of a White-rumped Swift and African Palm Swifts in flight.

In the section on plants there are short descriptions of trees, shrubs and climbers that may attract birds to your garden. Each of these is accompanied by a photograph. There are also some general notes on groups of plants such as fynbos, proteas, aloes and more.

I can’t really find fault with this book, and I enjoy just flipping through it every now and then. I wish I had more space in my garden to plant more of the suggested trees and other plants. Some readers may prefer paintings of the birds, rather than photos, but I find that the photo’s capture the essence of the birds very well. Others might wonder why certain birds were left out the book but, as I mentioned above, I felt the selection was good.

I would definitely recommend this book should you be interested in attracting birds to your garden in southern Africa. It contains a lot of useful information, and the layout is very appealing.

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