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TAMIL

Birds of Tamil Nadu

TAMIZHNAATTU PARAVAIGAL: Munaivar K. Ratnam; Meippavan Tamizhaivagam, 53, Pudhutheru, Chidambaram-608001. Rs. 225.

REGIONAL FIELD guides and books grounded in science but less technical than taxonomic accounts provide invaluable guidance for the amateur nature enthusiast and the professional alike. Indeed, a lack of these books can be the sole obstacle in preventing naturalists from discovering and enjoying the variety of life in a particular area; their availability can make a pronounced difference.

The widespread popularity of bird-watching in Kerala relative to Tamil Nadu is a ready example. It derives greatly from the availability of two books, Salim Ali's Birds of Kerala and Neelakantan's Keralathile Pakshikal, and the non-availability of comparable books on the birds of Tamil Nadu. Thus, as Theodore Baskaran points out in his foreword, Ratnam's book caters to a long-felt need.

It describes a significant 328 of the approximately 500 bird species of Tamil Nadu. With each species illustrated in colour, this represents considerable effort. The book contains an overview of bird-watching itself, colour photographs portraying several bird species, a map of Tamil Nadu, a bibliography, indices of names and lists of birds that may be found at a few sanctuaries. The species accounts outline the appearance of each species and its habits, status, preferred habitat and nesting habits.

The recent proliferation of English "common" names of birds is a vexed issue, and the author follows the names proposed by Manakadan and Pittie.

The Tamil names are even more interesting because there are no traditional names in literature for many species, while names for other species probably enjoy very local usage or have lost currency.

Hints on distinguishing between similar looking species and where specifically to look for less common birds such as the Drongo Cuckoo would be useful additions in the next edition.

Some illustrations need to be made more accurate for field use, the one of the Blackheaded Cuckoo-Shrike being an extreme example. Altogether the book will be most useful for the reader with growing interest in birds in Tamil Nadu.

KUMARAN SATHASIVAM

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