THE ATLAS OF
SOUTHERN AFRICAN BIRDS
Volume 1: Non-passerines
Volume 2: Passerines
J.A. Harrison, D.G. Allan, L.G. Underhill,
M. Herremans, A.J. Tree, V. Parker and C.J. Brown
Published in 1997 by BirdLife South Africa
To place your Atlas order visit the publisher's
The atlas contains introductory chapters describing the
methodology employed and providing an in-depth description of
the `avi'-geography of southern Africa. This chapter is
visually reinforced by a selection of habitat photographs,
carefully chosen to be representative of the wide diversity
of habitat types in southern Africa. All contributors of five
or more atlas cards are acknowledged.
Actual size A4, printed on
90-gsm matt art paper.
Volume 1 (c. 900 pages) contains the introductory chapters
and the non-passerines. The dust-jacket is illustrated by a
specially commissioned watercolour of a Blue Crane striding
across its distribution map. Volume 2 (c. 700 pages) has a
Crimsonbreasted Shrike, also by Penny Meakin, on the dust-
jacket and contains the passerines.
500 species receive two
(or occasionally three) pages as shown here; 200 species are
covered with map and text on a single page; for the 200
species that have been recorded as vagrants in southern
Africa there is no map, but a fully researched paragraph of
text giving details of occurrence in the region.
For each species, statistics provide a convenient summary of
the data and a measure of the relative abundance within the
The species texts were written by leading ornithologists, and
were carefully refereed and checked by a team of editors
representing all areas of southern Africa. The texts go far
beyond a verbal representation of the information in the maps
and graphics, and present fresh interpretations in the light
of existing knowledge. For many species, this is the longest
essay ever published. In short, the texts represent building
blocks towards a handbook of southern African birds.
For most species, the text concludes with a considered
statement on conservation issues, reflecting the conservation
ethos that lies at the heart of the objectives of both the
bird atlas project and its publishers, BirdLife South Africa.
An analysis of vegetation types based on vegetation zones
produces a graphic which shows the vegetation preferences of
the species. This approach is unique to The Atlas of Southern
In the distribution maps, the spatial scale is a quarter-
degree grid, except for Botswana, where a half-degree grid
was used. The geographic information in the maps is in black,
and the distributions themselves are in three shades of red
plus crosses. The darkest shade shows the `core' of the
range; this is defined as the one-third of the total range
where the species was most frequently recorded. The lighter
shades show where the species was less commonly sighted,
indicating the peripheral parts of the range. The crosses
indicate where the species occurred rarely.
Southern Africa was divided into eight `Zones' labelled 1 (in
the northwestern corner of southern Africa) to 8 (in the
southeastern corner). The solid line summarizes the pattern
of variation of reporting rates through the year in each
Zone. This shows clearly the timing of arrival and departure
of migrants; it also produces striking information on the
conspicuousness of resident species that assume breeding
plumage or are very vocal for part of the year. For species
which breed in the atlas region, there is also a dotted line
for each Zone showing breeding seasonality (see example for
Fiscal Shrike). These analyses of seasonality are unique to
this atlas. The atlas contains comprehensive instructions on
the interpretation of all the graphics; because of the
novelty of the presentations, these need to be read
Informally, you can think of the `reporting rate' as the
probability of seeing the species!
Completely new line drawings for 500 species, by leading
southern African artists.
Click on the page(s) below to see a higher resolution image.
Conservation leaders welcome the atlas
Dr Aldo Berruti, Director, BirdLife South Africa (formerly
the Southern African Ornithological Society):
`The Atlas of
Southern African Birds is the climax to the largest
biodiversity project ever run in Africa. BirdLife South
Africa is proud to have been associated with the project
since its inception and to be its publishers. I commend the
atlas to you as the greatest advance in ornithology in
southern Africa since the first edition of Roberts' was
published in 1940.'
Dr Ian Macdonald, Director of Conservation, WWF South Africa:
`Southern Africa's rich biodiversity is a priceless treasure.
This atlas provides us with the first comprehensive spatial
inventory of an important component of this biodiversity: the
region's rich birdlife. The record it provides is both
intriguing in the many complexities it has revealed and
valuable in the baseline it has provided us with. All those
who contributed to this massive endeavour are to be heartily
congratulated on an important job well done.'
Dr John Ledger, Director, Endangered Wildlife Trust:
been present at the very start of the Bird Atlas project, it
gives me enormous pleasure to endorse the publication of this
magnificent effort to document where and how birds live in
southern Africa. This is a benchmark publication of extremely
high quality, and one which will assist the states of the
subregion to meet one of the key elements of the Convention
on Biological Diversity - an inventory of the avifauna.'
Dr Colin Bibby, BirdLife International: `Well-founded reports
on the status of birds make a leading contribution to their
conservation. The Atlas of Southern African Birds sets new
standards in its scope and in its methods. Its qualities will
be globally recognized. This great opus will be a source of
pride to its numerous contributors. More importantly, it will
come to be valued ever more as years go by, for setting a
measured baseline against which to judge environmental trends
across the great range of southern Africa.'