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1 July 2006 Oiseaux d'Algeria-Birds of Algeria
Emil K. Urban
Author Affiliations +

The following critiques express the opinions of the individual evaluators regarding the strengths, weaknesses, and value of the books they review. As such, the appraisals are subjective assessments and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or any official policy of the American Ornithologists' Union.

Paul Isenmann and Aïssa Moali. 2000. Société d'Études Ornithologiques de France, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Bibliothèque, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, in collaboration with the Station biologique de la Tour du Valat, Arles, France. 336 pp., 115 color photographs, 210 maps. ISBN 2-9506548-8-6. Paper, €37.00.

Oiseaux de Tunisia-Birds of Tunisia.—

Paul Isenmann, Thierry Gaultier, Ali El Hili, Hichem Azafzah, Habib Dlensi, and Michael Smart. English translation by Michael Smart. 2005. Société d'Études Ornithologiques de France, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Bibliotheque, case postale 51, 55 rue Vuffon, 75005 Paris ( Published under the patronage of Les Amis des Oiseaux in collaboration with the Biological station de la Tour du Valat, Arles, France. 432 pp., 130 color photographs, 150 maps. ISBN 2-9506548-9-4. Paper, €38.00.—With the publication of these two books on the birds of Algeria and Tunisia, plus the recently published book on the birds of Morocco (Thévenot et al. 2003), information on the birds of the Maghreb is now easily accessible and well documented. Before these books, one had to rely largely on H. Heim de Balsac and N. Mayaud's Les Oiseaux du Nord- Ouest de l'Afrique (1962) and R. D. Etchécopar and F. Hüe's Oiseaux du Nord de l'Afrique de la Mer Rouge aux Canaries (1964). In recent decades, data on the birds of Algeria and Tunisia have also been available in field notes, tour lists, and unpublished manuscripts scattered across Europe and North Africa and often difficult to obtain, and in publications such as Ledant et al. (1981) for Algeria and Thomsen and Jacobsen (1979) for Tunisia.

Algeria and Tunisia have a great variety of bird habitats and an avifauna of special interest to birdwatchers and ornithologists. Of the 406 species of birds recorded in Algeria, 214 nest there, including the endemic Algerian Nuthatch (Sitta ledanti), discovered in 1975; of the 395 species recorded in Tunisia, 193 nest there, including Moussier's Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri), endemic to North Africa. The publication of these two books, detailing the avifauna of Algeria and Tunisia, is a welcome event.

These are similarly formatted books from the same publisher, with texts in both English and French. Outstanding color photographs enhance the front and back covers. Each of the books begins with acknowledgments, followed by contents; foreword; an introduction covering geography, habitats, and history of ornithology; a list of species with their status; biogeographical analysis; an annotated checklist with simple but useable maps for many nesting species; references; indexes giving scientific, French, and English names; and a gazetteer. Many colorful photographs are scattered in the text, adding to the books' overall attractiveness. The references are thorough, listing with complete titles all papers available to the authors up to the publication of each book. The reader is also directed to the extensive bibliography of Heim de Balsac and Mayaud (1962), covering some earlier papers those authors did not reference in their books on the birds of Algeria and Tunisia. Sequence and classification mainly follow Voous (1973, 1977), and the English and French names follow the names now commonly used in the Western Palearctic and Afrotropical regions.

The foreword of Oiseaux d'Algeria-Birds of Algeria, which is printed in French only, is by S. Benyacoub, Director, Department of Ecology, University of Annaba, Algeria. This book's geography section has one map, which includes several major cities and shades of green, yellow, and tan representing habitats and altitudes in Algeria from the Mediterranean coast to the Sahara. Scattered in the text are three tables on status, faunal types of breeding birds, and numbers of breeding pairs of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) in Algeria in 1995. This book also has comments on the MedWet collaboration for the wise use of wetlands throughout the Mediterranean; a list of birds newly recorded or having become extinct in Algeria since 1962; comparisons of the forest avifauna of Algeria, France, and Poland with those of Morocco and Tunisia; and discussions of time of breeding in Northwest Africa and on the Mediterranean and trans-Saharan migration systems. The species accounts vary in length, with all information combined into one or two paragraphs; details are given on taxonomy, status, distribution, habitat, reproduction, ringing recoveries, and diet. Each species account has a number that directs the reader to the voice of the species as recorded on Chappuis's (2000) CD, African Bird Sounds. The accounts lack page references for locating species distribution maps. The gazetteer is a welcome feature, especially for people not familiar with Algeria. To use the gazetteer, however, one also needs a major atlas at hand for the many localities not included on the map in the introduction of the book. Latitude and longitude would have improved the gazetteer.

The foreword of Oiseaux de Tunisia-Birds of Tunisia was written by Al El Hili, who was responsible for organizing Les Amis des Oiseaux, which has been influential in the conservation and study of birds of Tunisia since 1975; this group hosted the 11th Pan-African Ornithological Congress in 2004. The introductory part of this book has three maps, covering physical, climatic and administrative features, a major improvement over the single map in the Algerian book. The section on habitat is especially good, with many attractive color photographs showing characteristic avian habitats of Tunisia. H. Azafzaf and also T. Gaultier are responsible for these photos, as well as many others of birds in the annotated checklist. Other new additions include a glossary; a section on changes in breeding birds in the second half of the 20th century; a section (only in French, by Claudia Feltrup-Azafzaf) on the important bird areas; a table on number of species and individuals recorded in winter in the Gulf of Gabès; black-and-white sketches of an ibis, lapwing, and hoopoe by P. Vanardois; and an appendix by Ali El Hili (only in French) on ancient documents of birds in Tunisia.

The Tunisian species accounts generally contain more information than the Algerian accounts, with each account subdivided into sections (e.g., Breeding, Passage, Nesting Data, Recoveries). Each account also gives the page reference for the species distribution map, but not Chappuis's (2000) CD track number. The gazetteer is extensive, each locality being listed with its administrative area. These administrative areas are defined on the political map in the introductory part of the book, and one usually can find a locality. Still, latitude and longitude would have helped.

Of the two nations, Tunisia is especially attractive to birdwatchers and ornithologists. In recent years, Algeria has been less accessible for bird observations, but hopefully the publication of this new book on the birds of Algeria will encourage indigenous Algerians as well as visitors to study birds there.

The authors and the Société d'Études Ornithologiques de France have produced two excellent books, and birdwatchers and ornithologists interested in the birds of Africa should have them in their libraries. They represent a major addition to the knowledge of the birds of North Africa and will be key references for years to come.

Literature Cited


C. Chappuis 2000. African Bird Sounds, vol. 1. [CD.] British Library Natural Sound Archive, London. Google Scholar


R. D. Etchécopar and F. Hüe . 1964. Les Oiseaux du Nord de l'Afrique de la Mer Rouge aux Canaries. Boubee, Paris. Google Scholar


H. Heim de Balsac and N. Mayaud . 1962. Les Oiseaux du Nord-Ouest de l'Afrique. Lechevalier, Paris. Google Scholar


J. P. Ledant, J. P. Jacob, P. Jacobs, F. Malher, B. Ochando, and J. Roché . 1981. Mise à jour de l'avifaune algerienne. Gerfaut 71:295–398. Google Scholar


M. Thévenot, R. Vernon, and P. Bergier . 2003. The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist, no. 20. British Ornithologists' Union and British Ornithologists' Club, The Natural History Museum, Tring, United Kingdom. Google Scholar


P. Thomsen and P. Jacobsen . 1979. The Birds of Tunisia. Nature-Travels, Copenhagen. Google Scholar


K. H. Voous 1973. List of recent Holarctic bird species. Non-passerines. Ibis 115:612–638. Google Scholar


K. H. Voous 1977. List of recent Holarctic bird species. Passerines. Ibis 119:223–250. Google Scholar


Emil K. Urban "Oiseaux d'Algeria-Birds of Algeria," The Auk 123(3), 913-915, (1 July 2006).[913:ODOA]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 July 2006
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