Reviving a passion for birds – Nick Newman chats about honouring his father’s legacy with Newman’s Birds by Colour
 More about the book!

Despite growing up in a bird-loving household, Nick Newman didn’t initially share his father Kenneth’s passion for all things feathered. However, as time went on, nature was victorious and Nick made the journey from a bored child driving through the Kruger Park to revising Newman’s Birds by Colour, and honouring his father’s legacy.

‘I was reminded of my early days when colourful birds drew me in and set me on the path of the avian world.’

Growing up with a father named Kenneth Newman and a household steeped in birds didn’t automatically kindle my love for these feathered creatures. I remember countless hours spent in Kruger National Park, lying upside down in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon, bored out of my mind while my father paused to examine another bird’s feet or bill. Birds, with their fleeting movements, failed to captivate me. I was more drawn to butterflies – slow-moving, approachable and adorned with captivating colours that my eyes could linger on. Despite this initial disinterest in birds, my passion for nature persisted, and those ‘forced’ outings to the bush eventually led me to appreciate and admire the natural world and its avian inhabitants.

When the opportunity arose to revise Newman’s Birds by Colour, I found myself intrigued. With a young family of my own, I was drawn to the book’s principles as a tool to introduce more people to birding and make this fascinating hobby accessible to beginners and nature enthusiasts alike. I was reminded of my early days when colourful birds drew me in and set me on the path of the avian world.

The aim of Newman’s Birds by Colour has always been clear and focused: to serve as a quick reference guide for beginner birdwatchers and those further along the birding path who struggle with quickly identifying common birds. As my father said, ‘How many times have we all heard someone say, ‘It flew away before I could get a better look at it, but it was red’ (or blue, or green, or yellow)?

From the outset, my goal was to update the existing resource, focusing on the predominant first impression of colour, size, or other easily noticed identifying characteristics of a bird. I wanted to broaden the reader audience by including regional bird names in local languages, including Zulu, Sesotho, Twana, Xhosa, English, Afrikaans, Nama, German and Ndebele. My mission was to make bird identification not just accurate but also enjoyable, fostering a growing community of birders, naturalists, citizen scientists and photographers who care deeply about and understand the world we live in.

Creating this book was an incredibly enriching experience, albeit a challenging one. It demanded countless hours of research, meticulous attention to detail, and a relearning of how a first-time birder would view a bird. What impression did they take from the bird they just saw? How easily could I translate the importance of habitat to the reader? Every bird species featured in the book underwent rigorous scrutiny to ensure accurate representation between the illustration and photograph and information. Many a test group was asked for feedback on how a colour seen on a bird in differing light or action translated to their ability to narrow down and identify the species.

The fourth edition of Newman’s Birds by Colour brings several updates and improvements. I’ve incorporated the latest common names to align with current ornithological nomenclature. The habitat information has been expanded to offer readers a more comprehensive understanding of where each bird can be found, and updated distribution maps provide valuable insights into the geographical range of each species. With the amazing support of the photographic community, each species now has an accompanying photograph to assist with contextual identification.

In conclusion, Newman’s Birds by Colour is not just a bird identification guide; it’s a reflection of my lifelong journey from a bird-disinterested child to a passionate advocate for birding and nature conservation. Whether you’re a novice birder looking to get started or an experienced enthusiast seeking a handy reference, I hope that this book will inspire you to look up, explore, and marvel at the fascinating world of birds that surrounds us. Happy birdwatching!

This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine about books for book lovers from Penguin Random House South Africa. 


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Categories Lifestyle Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Kenneth Newman Newman's Birds by Colour Nick Newman Penguin Random House SA The Penguin Post

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