The Empire of the Eagle and Águila de Bonelli: Book review

Review of Empire of the Eagle and Águila de Bonelli
Review of Empire of the Eagle and Águila de Bonelli

There’s no denying, at Birding The Strait we are passionate about Eagles. We love seeking for them, photographing them and simply observing them in the wild. We are also wildlife photography and bird books enthusiasts. Indeed, this is one of our main sources of expenditure! So, we were excited to see two new books coming out last month: ‘The Empire of the Eagle’ by Mike Unwin and David Tippling, and ‘Águila de Bonelli (Bonelli’s Eagle)’ by Tony Peral.

Both have a special meaning for us. We contributed with a few pictures for the book ‘The Empire of the Eagle’ and we were looking forward to seeing them on print. On the other hand, ‘Águila de Bonelli’ has been created, edited and published by a friend of us, the photographer and naturalist, Tony Peral.

Review of ‘Águila de Bonelli’

Packaging of 'Águila de Bonelli' by Tony Peral
Packaging of ‘Águila de Bonelli’ by Tony Peral

You know you are in front of a special book the moment the package with ‘Águila de Bonelli’ is being delivered. The amazing packaging with a Bonelli’s Eagle printed on the box and the wax seal, is really unique and classy. Some would compare the experience to the one you get when purchasing a limited edition vinyl. From the moment you untie the strings and open the box, you are on a trip to the land of the Bonelli’s Eagles.

Cover of 'Águila de Bonelli' by Tony Peral
Cover of ‘Águila de Bonelli’ by Tony Peral

The cover shows an adult female in flight. She is missing one of her tail feathers, which does nothing but improve the visual impact of the photography. It’s truly a statement of intents. The author, Tony Peral, provides further insight on the magnitude of his work stating in the introduction that he stopped counting the hours spent in his hide after 3000!

Good and authoritative texts

The book begins with six concise and well written chapters by Jose María Gil Sánchez and consists on an updated review of the biology and conservation of the species. English-speakers, don’t get distracted by the title, this book has been translated into English. However, the photographies, which are the most important part of the book are universal.

A festival of Bonelli’s eagles’ photos

From there, as the prestigious Markus Varesvuo says in the prologue, comes a true festival of almost 100 photos, all of them of superb quality. The first, a double-page image, shows a subadult Bonelli’s Eagle right in the moment she is catching a Red-legged Partridge. Next page, an adult folds its wings to dive directing its gaze on you!

Every single photo on 'Águila de Bonelli' is fantastic
Every single photo on ‘Águila de Bonelli’ is fantastic

Not a single photo in the book is a filler, none is redundant, and none seems to be done in a known set or hide. Moreover, some photos in this book show scenes of Bonelli’s eagles very rarely seen before. This is one of those books that, if a child happens to find, it is very likely that he will want to be a wildlife photographer.

Many pictures in the book depict the aerial maneuvers and interactions of the Bonelli's eagles
Many pictures in the book depict the aerial maneuvers and interactions of the Bonelli’s eagles

We believe it’s important to note that the FSC certificate guarantees that all the materials used for the production of the book come from sustainable, eco-friendly sources. You can get your copy of ‘Águila de Bonelli’ following this link.

Review of ‘The Empire of the Eagle’

Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle chapter. This picture was taken in Belize by Yeray Seminario while doing field work on the Orange-breasted Falcon project
Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle chapter. This picture was taken in Belize by Yeray Seminario while doing field work with the Orange-breasted Falcon project

‘Empire of the Eagle’ is a compilation of texts and photographs of all the species of eagles in the worldby Mike Unwin, with selected photographies, curated by a renowned photographer: David Tipling .

This is a hardcover book with a clear emphasis on the photography side. Indeed, the introduction describes the book as “a photographic celebration of all the world’s eagles”. Sixty-eight species are treated throughout its 288 pages and distributed in five main sections: ‘Hunters of the Uplands’, ‘Predators of the Plains’, ‘Assasins of the Woodlands’, ‘Raptors of the Rainforest’ and ‘Wings over the Water’. Hence, unlike most of the books that treat groups of different species, the eagles are ordered by habitat, and not in taxonomic or alphabetic order.

Great summaries of  each raptor species

First, we find a brief Introduction section that deals with the personal attachment of the author to eagles. The authors also talk about the relevance of eagles in culture and history, its biology and conservation challenges.

The texts contain information about the natural history of each species, following a similar structure in all the cases. They include references to scientific research and anecdotic information, all written on an easy-reading, colloquial way. In any case, they are well documented, and deal with some very specific information. They occasionally include recent research results, adding to the overall value of the book. We can safely define the texts as brief summary introductions on each species.

An excellent compilation of eagle images

Western Banded Snake-Eagle by Yeray Seminario. This photography was taken from a boat in the Gambia River, Senegal
Western Banded Snake-Eagle by Yeray Seminario. This photography was taken from a boat on the Gambia River, Senegal

The quality of most images on the book is excellent. Also, the printing quality is what you would expect on a high-profile photography book. We noticed how some of the rarest species lack a spectacular image to depict the bird. There are probably not many photographies of some of these rare species out there! These pictures are an important testimony to how little we know about some eagle species in the world.

You can find a link to buy ‘The Empire of the Eagle’ here.

Which one we recommend?

We eagerly recommend both “Empire of the Eagle” and “Águila de Bonelli”. They are great books for anyone keen on wildlife. Specially, for those who are passionate about one of the most majestic groups of animals: the birds of prey. With christmas just around the corner, these remarkable books are a perfect gift!