Compiling "The Birds of Ireland"

Some important facts about 'The Birds of Ireland' need to be established. It does not offer complete accounts of species or describe birds. Ussher argued these would be inappropriate in a work of local avifauna, as standard descriptions of birds already existed in other, international works of ornithology.

Similarly, few illustrations are included in 'The Birds of Ireland'. Ussher, for example, follows the classification provided in the 'Illustrated manual of British Birds' (2nd Ed., 1899) by Howard Saunders, an established text of the period.

Instead, Ussher offers observations supplementing research that has already been published elsewhere, except for those species where Irish knowledge enhanced existing texts. More detailed descriptions were submitted in such cases, of which the Peregrine Falcon, Siskin, Crossbill, Chough and Woodcock are notable examples.

Warren's contribution to the work include pieces on the White Wagtail, Surf-Scoter, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-Tailed Godwit and Sandwich Tern. The rest is by Ussher, drawing substantially on unpublished information collated by R.M. Barrington. The scale of the work is impressive, given the impediments that pertained at the time of its collation.

In other, larger countries, foundation works of ornithology already existed, making it easier to update the local ornithology. In Ireland, no such work had ever been undertaken. Problems included the fact that common birds were previously unidentified, were called by names of other species, were named in the Irish language and varied from district to district.

Judged by these criteria, 'The Birds of Ireland' has to be appraised as a groundbreaking and a historic achievement, a landmark text in Irish natural history that is still an invaluable reference tool to this day.

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