The Birds of the Western Palearctic

The Birds of the Western Palearctic

The cover of volume 1 of the full edition
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Published 1977–96 (Oxford University Press)
Media type Print (Hardback)

The Birds of the Western Palearctic (full title Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic; often referred to by the initials BWP) is a nine-volume ornithological handbook covering the birds of the western portion of the Palearctic zoogeographical region.


The Birds of the Western Palearctic is a comprehensive regional avifauna for the Western Palearctic. It consists of 9 volumes, the first published in 1977 and the ninth in 1994. BWP's format and breadth influenced the development of regional avifaunas for other parts of the world, notably The Birds of Africa.

A two-volume Concise Edition was produced in 1998. Both the full and concise editions were published by Oxford University Press (OUP).

The boundary used for the region included Iceland, but not Greenland; all of Macaronesia (islands off Portugal and North Africa); North Africa; the northern parts of the Arabian peninsula; Iraq and Kuwait, but not Iran; and Russia west of the Urals. A number of subsequent papers have questioned the appropriateness of this boundary, particularly its southern and southeastern delimitations, among them Martins & Hirschfeld (1994).[1] Martins and Hirschfeld published a more detailed paper in 1998, discussing the boundary in Iran and the Arabian peninsula. They concluded that the mountainous western and northern areas of Iran, and the Arabian peninsula, except for two small enclaves in the south, should be included in the Western Palearctic.[2] Ullman (2000) disagreed with their conclusions regarding the Arabian enclaves, however, arguing that their depauperate avifauna, when compared to species-rich areas in northeast Africa, justified inclusion of the whole of Arabia in the Western Palearctic.[3] Roselaar (2006), analysing the breeding distributions of 1037 passerine bird species in the Palearctic region, and northern parts of the Afrotropical and Oriental regions, also proposed a southern boundary somewhat to the south of that used by BWP. He excluded southernmost parts of Arabia, albeit with a slightly different border to that used by Martins & Hirschfeld.[4]

A journal, BWP Update, was published for a number of years following the completion of BWP.

Two electronic versions of BWP have been produced. The first, produced by OUP, suffered from a number of technical problems[5] and customers were offered a refund. The second, known as "BWPi", was produced by BirdGuides Ltd. This includes the full text of the nine volumes, the Concise Edition, all updates from BWP Update, new video and audio, and recent taxonomical changes.

Publication data


BWP Concise


  1. Martins, R. P. & Hirschfeld, E. (1994) Where are the limits of the Western Palearctic? Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 114: 207-08
  2. Martins, R. P. & Hirschfeld, Erik (1998) Comments on the limits of the Western Palearctic in Iran and the Arabian Peninsula Sandgrouse 20(2): 108-34
  3. Ullman, Magnus (2000) The limits of the Western Palearctic Sandgrouse 22(1): 74-75
  4. Roselaar, Kees (2006) The boundaries of the Palearctic region British Birds 99(12): 602-18
  5. "The Complete Birds of the Western Palearctic". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
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