THE first volume by Mr. Oates on the Birds of British India was published in 1889 under the editorship of Dr. W. T. Blanford and it was then estimated that in this and the three succeeding volumes the number of species dealt with would exceed those enumerated in Jerdon's classical " Birds of India " by more than one half. Mr. Oates had been able to come to England on furlough and was thus able to utilize the collection of Indian birds in the British Museum, which included amongst other large collections Mr. Hume's collection of 60,000 skins. The second of the volumes written by Mr. Oates appeared the following year but as he was unable to obtain an extension of his two years' furlough he had to be content with issuing a somewhat smaller volume than usual. Still, he succeeded in covering the whole of the Passerine birds, the largest and most difficult of all the great orders.
The two remaining volumes on Birds were written by Dr. W. T. Blanford and published respectively in 1895 and 1898.
These volumes on Birds have been for many years out of print, and there has been a constant demand for a re-issue of them. It is therefore with great pleasure that with the sanction of the authorities of the India Office I have been able to secure the services of Mr. E. C. Stuart Baker in preparing this much needed new edition.
Dr. Blanford died in 1905. For twenty-seven years he had been a member of the Indian Geological Society and had acquired a wide and deep knowledge of the geology of that great Empire. But he was a man of the utmost width of scientific interest. During his many journeys ho kept a keen eye on the fauna of British India and it was this first¬hand knowledge that enabled him so successfully to complete the great work begun by Mr. Oates. Dr. Blanford was an indefatigable worker and everything that he wrote was of the highest order of merit, marked by thoroughness and accuracy.
Mr. Oates survived his editor by six years. He had spent thirty-two years in the Public Works Department of India and had devoted all his spare time to the ornithology of British India. He was chiefly stationed in Burma and was undoubtedly the world"s authority on the birds of that country. His " Birds of British Burma " in two volumes is still a standard work, though it has perhaps been to some extent replaced by his later work in "The Fauna of British India."
He is described by those who knew him as being a lovable but at times hot-tempered man ; but officials who have spent a large part of their lives in the tropics are apt to he a little hot-tempered. The fact that Mr. A. O. Hume made over to Oates the whole of his notes and correspondence when the latter was preparing his work on "The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds" testifies to the high regard he inspired in his contemporaries. On his retirement he was requested by the Trustees of the British Museum to catalogue their large collection of British eggs, and he prepared a manuscript of four volumes, covering about 50,000 specimens. The first two volumes of this catalogue were issued during his lifetime.
Both he and Dr. Blanford are splendid examples of men carrying on thorough scientific work in the rare and sporadic intervals of exacting, official duties.
Those who are responsible for issuing these volumes may well congratulate themselves on having secured the services of Mr. E. C Stuart Baker. Mr. Baker is well known to all those in India who take an interest in ornithology and big game shooting. He is equally known to Ornithologists all over the world as a regular contributor for more than thirty years to the "Ibis" and "Bombay Natural History Society's Journal." His volumes on Indian Game Birds are standard works and all who read these pages will recog¬nise in his vivid descriptions of the habits and song of birds the work of a first-hand authority.
The author has produced a work which combines the highest scientific standard with a system which readily enables the sportsman or amateur to identify the various birds of British India. He has himself drawn attention to the imperative need of the trinominal system of nomen-clature and he has modernised the generic and specific names in accordance with the rules of the International Congress.
In some cases it will be noticed that there is no name following the words "vernacular names." In these cases none have been recorded, but it is hoped that sportsmen and naturalists in India may in time be able to fill up these blanks. The extremely accurate and living drawings for the plates are the work of the author. They have been admirably reproduced by Messrs. Bale & Danielsson.
7th July, 1922. A. E. SHIPLEY.