Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Review


The Prairie Naturalist 48: 107–108. December 2016


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society, 2016. United States government work. Public domain material.


Ducks, geese and swans (Family Anatidae) are the most popular and best studied group of birds in the world. The group has been the subject of classical books by Kortright (1942), Delacour (1954-1964), Bellrose (1976), Palmer (1976), Johnsgard (1978), and, most recently, Kear (2005) and Baldassarre (2014). The latest contribution to this rich legacy is an impressively illustrated identification guide for waterfowl found in North America, Europe and Asia by author and artist, Sébastien Reeber. This is an English-language version of Canards, Cygnes et Oies d’Europe, d’Asie et d’Amérique du Nord, published by Delachaux and Niestlé in late 2015. The book also was published in the United Kingdom in 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing under the title Wildfowl of Europe, Asia, and North America. The translation is amazingly clean.

This is a large book (656 pages with 85 distribution maps and more than 900 drawings and 650 photos), and is clearly not intended for use in the field. The author’s decision to focus on 83 North American and Eurasian species is a little puzzling, because there is only limited exchange of birds between the three selected continents. Admittedly, a guide for all waterfowl (~165 species) with this level of detail would have been a daunting task and potentially doubled the size of the already bulky book; however, the division does present some problems for treatments of tropical, mobile, or widely distributed species found in both hemispheres. The book is organized into four parts: introductory sections, plates, species accounts, and literature cited. The introductory sections describe how to use the book, provide brief overviews of waterfowl taxonomy and avian topology, and present more expansive treatments of molts and plumages, aging and sexing methodology, and hybridization.