29 APRIL 1899, Page 9

A Sketch-book of British Birds. By R. Bowdler Sharpe. With

Coloured Illustrations by A. F. and C. Lydon. (S.P.C.K. 14s.) —The supply of books on British birds seems inexhaustible, and we can only hope that there is a corresponding demand. If there is, ornithology must be becoming a popular study. The latest contribution to the subject is by Mr. Bowdler Sharpe (of the Natural History Museum), who is recognised as one of the most respectable and learned authorities. Whatever comes from his pen may be accepted as thoroughly accurate and in keeping with modern theories and discoveries. Old-fashioned readers may be somewhat shocked at the reclassification and the new Latin names. They will find that not only the birds of prey, but now the thrushes are displaced from the head of the list. Their old friend Corvus, the rook, under the new- fangled title of Trypanocoraz frugilegus, is now admitted to the headship of the first order. But these changes, however distasteful, are not to be set down as whimsical vagaries. There is a serious method in all these alterations of nomenclature, and some slight hope of their being universally adopted. The Corvidze, also, have strong claims, by reason of their perfect struc- ture and high intelligence, to form the leading family of perching birds. Mr. Bowdler Sharpe has made his work more inclusive than most recent writers, and claims four hundred and forty-five species as worthy of the name of British birds :—" Of these 445 species, there are, doubtless, several that have no real claim to be considered British at all. The evidence of the capture of many of the specimens is not convincing, and many species are included in the British avifauna on untrustworthy data. They have been, however, on the British list for so many years, that any attempt to shake the authenticity of their occurrence by a single author may be resented. It is to be hoped that an authoritative list of British birds may be published by the British Ornithologists' Union or the B.O.U. club." To show how thoroughly abreast of reeent field-work this book is, we need only mention that the two latest additions to the list are included : a chestnut-bellied weaver-finch and a specimen of Radde's bush-warbler, both shot last October, in Suffolk and Lincolnshire respectively. These are, presumably, believed to have never known the inside of an aviary. In a work where more than half a page is seldom devoted to each species, it is of course not possible to give a full account of the appearance or the habits of a bird. But very great discretion has been shown in knowing what to omit, and Mr. Bowdler Sharpe seems to have a remarkable power of compressing in a few lines the distinguishing features and manners of each bird. So many books on this subject, which have recently appeared, copy and repeat the errors of older writers, that it is satisfactory to have a popular work of reference from so distinguished an authority. The chief features of the book are small coloured figures of every species, but of these we will say little, for we cannot conscientiously praise them. In many eases, no doubt, these illustrations would be of help in identifying an unknown bird ; but often (especially in the case of the warblers and the waders) they bear but remote resemblance to the real bird, the colouring is inaccurate, and the portrait is lifeless. Mr. Bowdler Sharpe modestly disclaims having done more than supply a running commentary to the pictures. In reality he has written an admirable, although very much curtailed, account of our birds which is very unworthily illustrated. The book has one serious fault, for it is printed on a highly glazed paper which we can only describe as detestable. It is painful to the eyes which read and disagreeable to the fingers which turn the pages. We cannot say that this book will supersede others of a like nature already in the field, but it will no doubt, and quite deservedly, find many purchasers.—With the work just noticed we may mention another book by the same author, Wonders of the Bird World (Wells Gardner, Barton, and Co., 6s.) This is essentially a popular book, which aims at making known to the general reader the wonders which ornithologists have discovered. The book is based upon some popular lectures which Mr. Bowdler Sharpe has delivered from time to time, now collected, revised, and greatly amplified. The result is an interesting, though very discursive, series of chapters on some of the curiosities of the world of birds. " Which do you consider the most wonderful bird in the world ? " is a question often asked of Mr. Bowdler Sharpe, but one which he declines to answer, because every bird is wonderful in its way. Their marvellous variety of plumage, the ingenious construction of their nests, and their charming songs have attracted many people to make a pastime of the study of birds. To such persons, and to all youthful naturalists, this book will prove interesting. It is the work of an eminent authority on all matters of orni- thology, yet written for the non-scientific reader, who will here find accurate information on the latest theories and discoveries of science. Much has been written on the strange antics which many game-birds, cranes, bustards, and others indulge in during the season of courtship. The wonderful changes of plumage which birds have developed to obtain concealment among their surroundings, have also received attention from scientific men, and the resiilts of some of their researches will,be found in this book. Perhaps the most interesting chapter is that which deals with the migration of birds. In October, 1897, some one brought to Mr. Bowdler Sharpe a golden-crested wren which had flown into the topmost car of the Gigantic Wheel at Earl's Court Exhibition on the preceding night. Certainly no phenomenon of bird life is more marvellous than the mysterious impulse which makes a golden-crested wren leave the Norwegian pine forest and fly across the North Sea, perhaps to meet its fate, attracted by the fatal glare of the lights at Earl's Court. It is well to admit that we know little or nothing about migration yet. This Mr. Bowdler Sharpe most frankly does, and he confesses that the problem will hardly be solved till many more observations have been collected from all parts of the world, and many more ornithologists have devoted a lifetime to its investigation. Mr. A. T. Elwes has contributed a number of illustrations to the book of which some are very good wood-cuts