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Buntings and North American sparrows offer a great identification challenge. Many of the long distance migrants are notable wanderers, with a strong tendency to vagrancy, while others are rare and local. Some of the Asian buntings and tropical sparrows are still poorly known, and the skulking habits of some species add to the challenge. Most male buntings acquire a bright plumage, but the American sparrows acquire this exceptionally, rather than as the rule. Many sparrows and female buntings appear to be rather dull brown birds, but a closer look will reveal intricate and often quite beautiful plumage; with these birds, the field marks that will enable positive identification are to be found in minute feather detail.
This book is the first comprehensive guide to all the Old World buntings and North American sparrows. It includes 39 plates in full colour depicting all the species and distinct races. In the systematic section each species account is divided into sections: the identification section summarises important field marks; the description section details plumage and bare part characteristics for all ages and sexes; geographical variation covers taxonomy, and other sections give detailed measurements, descriptions of moult and ageing, habits, voice, status and habitat, distribution and movements, and references. A range map is included for each species. This beautifully presented book will for many years to come help solve the identification problems posed by a delightful and sought-after family of birds.