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Pipits and Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America by Per Alstrom, Krister Mild & Bill Zetterstrom
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This guide to a difficult group of birds is an excellent addition to any serious birder's library and an excellent tool for birders in Thailand when attempting to identify pipit species and wagtail subspecies, especially when the potential for uncommon or new species/races is high during migration and winter.

Pipits and Wagtails is a small enough book that it can be taken into the field in a small rucksack but at the same time it contains an enormous amount of information on distribution, identification, plumage variations, moult, wing formulas, calls and taxonomic status. The book is split into four main parts; a short introduction discussing general aspects of classification, identification, ageing and sexing of pipits and wagtails; 30 colour plates; 332 pages of information specific to each species; a photographic section. Each section is useful and the species accounts are particularly informative to birders in Asia when trying to identify various races of species, particularly Yellow Wagtail.

When this book was published in 2003 it was the most up-to-date account of pipits and wagtails based on the most recent research. One of the things I like about this book is that at times the authors simply admit to not really knowing the taxonomic status of some subspecies and give an explanation of their current grouping/splitting whilst indicating that further research may reveal changes.

One of the small complaints I would have avout this book is that the plates, species accounts and photographs being in three different sections makes for rather a lot of flicking back and forwards when researching a species. I guess the authors wanted to have the species illustrated next to each other, something that is important with hard to identify species, but why the photos can't be with the plates I don't know.

One ommission I noticed and was rather disappointed with is the lack of winter plumage illustrations for the various subspecies of Yellow Wagtail, something which is a serious problem for usage of this book in Thailand, although once the various subspecies come into summer plumage it is quite enlightening and it should be noted that the classification of Yellow Wagtail subspecies is at variance with that used in Robson and Lekagul and Round; I tend to use that of this superbly researched book.

This is one of the best Helm guides I have seen and birders throughout the world would do well to add it to their collection. Certainly birders in Thailand can learn a lot about pipit and wagtail identification from this.

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