A Field Guide to the Birds of Korea.—Woo-Shin Lee, Tae-Hoe Koo, and Jin-Young Park. Illustrations by Takashi Taniguchi. Translated by Desmond Allen. 2000. L.G. Evergreen Foundation, Seoul, Korea. 328 pp., 120 color plates, 450 color range maps. ISBN 0-8014-8631-9. 30 000 won (about $24; paper).
All 450 species of birds found on the entire Korean Peninsula are covered for the first time in this comprehensive field guide. The introduction provides such field guide standards as how to use the book, glossary of terms, and a diagram of avian topography. Unfortunately, there is no information on habitat or geography of Korea, which is too bad given how little Westerners know about North Korea. Species descriptions include such standard information as description, similar species, voice, status, and habitat within Korea. The book is illustrated by Takashi Taniguchi, who has illustrated a half dozen other field guides from the region. The color drawings, which often depict adults of both sexes and juvenile and immature forms, are spread throughout the book on plates that accompany the brief species descriptions and range maps. For each species, the plates often also include birds in summer and winter plumage, and perched and in flight. Useful diagnostic characteristics are indicated with arrows. The range maps are a rather small scale, emphasizing each species' range within eastern Asia rather than details of their distribution on the Korean Peninsula. Measuring 18 × 11.5 × 1.8 cm, the book is small enough to carry in a back pocket. The binding is inferior in quality: on my copy the cover is separating from the endpapers, to which it is poorly glued. The book will be useful for people birding Korea, but there is very little information about each species, so those interested in learning about Korean species should consult a more authoritative text. All proceeds from sale of the book will be donated to avian conservation efforts in Korea. For a more in-depth review see Lee (2001, Ibis 143:511).
A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines.—Robert S. Kennedy, Pedro C. Gonzales, Edward C. Dickinson, Hector C. Miranda, Jr., and Timothy H. Fisher. 2000. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 369 pp., 6 pen-and-ink drawings, 72 color plates, 500 color range maps, 1 table. ISBN 0-19-854669-6. $39.95 (paper). ISBN 0-19-854668-8. $95.00 (cloth).
With over 7100 islands, the Philippines is a daunting and complex country for which to catalog the avifauna. Kennedy et al. have done an admirable job with this first-ever complete guide to all 572 species occurring on its islands. In addition to providing an overview of the book, the Introduction discusses how the author considered accepting records of new localities for species. An overview of Philippine avifauna and biogeography would have been helpful. The publishers have compiled a team of 12 superb artists to illustrate the plates. Each species is beautifully illustrated, usually within the ecologically and behaviorally appropriate context. Male and female, adult, immature, and juvenile, breeding and nonbreeding plumages are often shown as well as flight and perching postures. Confusing races are also shown, usually in ways to emphasize distinguishing characteristics (e.g., four subspecies of the Colasisi [Loriculus philippensis], Plate 30). Species maps indicate endemic, resident, migrant/accidental, and resident ranges, and focus on the region occupied rather than always the entire country. Accompanying each plate are brief descriptions of the species status, appearance, and habitat. Following the plates are more in-depth accounts for each bird, including description, similar species, habits, voice, and range, including a list of islands the bird has been found on historically. Sometimes brief notes on the bird's taxonomic and conservation status are included. The authors have compiled a useful table to aid identification of the nine confusingly similar species and subspecies of swiftlets, including major islands of occurrence and diagnostic characteristics. Although too large to fit in most back pockets (23.3 × 15.5 × 2.8 cm), this book would be indispensable for anyone birdwatching in the Philippines. This book, which is well documented and wonderfully illustrated, will make a useful companion in the field as well as a worthwhile addition to any collection of regional bird guides and natural history books. For a more in-depth review see Crosby (2002, Ibis 144:166–167).
A Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia.—Craig Robson. 2000. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 504 pp., 104 color plates. ISBN 0-691-05012-0. $59.50 (cloth).
Another in Princeton's superlative “Guide to the Birds of …” field guide series, this one covers all 1251 species of birds found in the seven countries that make up Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. A team of 14 artists beautifully and accurately illustrated each species. The reproductions are a bit on the small size—necessitated by the difficulty of covering so many species in a single volume small enough to travel with—but still in high enough quality to see many fine diagnostic details. The majority of birds are depicted perching, but some (e.g., hawks, gulls, and herons) are shown both in flight and perched. Separate illustrations show major plumage variants including sex, age, and distinctive subspecies. Illustrations are grouped in 104 color plates accompanied by very brief diagnostic characteristics. Following the plates are more-detailed, yet still brief species accounts including identification, vocalizations, habitat, behavior, range, status, breeding status, nest, and egg descriptions. The information provided is useful in the field, but perhaps too brief to be of much use as a reference book. Only English and scientific names are given, no Asian or local names. No range maps are provided. This attractive and useful book is a bit large (24.5 × 18.5 × 5 cm, 1.1 kg) for carrying in a back or jacket pocket, but would be invaluable for a serious birder or ornithologist visiting the area. For a more in-depth review see McGowan (2001. Quarterly Review of Biology 76:94–95) and Styring (2001, Auk 118:570–571).
Birds of Thailand.—Craig Robson. 2002. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 272 pp., 128 color plates, 950 color range maps. ISBN 0-691-00700-2. $24.95 (paper). ISBN 0-691-00700-4. $49.50 (cloth).
The twelfth installment in the “Princeton Field Guides” series, not to be confused with the superior Princeton “Guide to the Birds of …” series. Birds of Thailand is a scaled-down version of Robson's Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia (above). It contains condensed information from that guide for the 950 bird species found in Thailand. Descriptions are reduced and sometimes changed to telegraphic style. Information on identification (i.e., size, age, and sex-specific description, voice, habitat, and behavior) is retained, but more ancillary information (i.e., status, breeding, nest, and eggs) is removed. However, of particular note is the addition of color range maps for all species, in some ways making this guide more useful than the parent volume for birders working in or visiting the country. Names are not given in Thai. There is a very brief introduction on how to use the book, a glossary, and a diminutive bibliography. The book measures 14.8 × 22 × 1.9 cm. This book would make a valuable companion for birders in Thailand, but Robson's Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia is a better library resource. For a more in-depth review see Redman (1999, Ibis 141:691).
A Field Guide to the Birds of China.—John MacKinnon and Karen Phillips. 2000. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 586 pp., 128 color plates, ∼1300 color range maps, 6 appendices. ISBN 0-19-854940-7. $45.00 (paper).
Covering 1329 species, this very thick field guide (3.7 cm) is a useful one for birders visiting this highly diverse country. This book encompasses the lowest point on earth (−155 m) and the highest (8848 m), and spans tropical forests and mangrove swamps to alpine and permafrost-covered grasslands. Over 100 species of birds are endemic to China or nearly so. China is the center of diversity for pheasants and laughing thrushes, and this book is particularly interesting as a source of information, albeit brief, on these groups. The color plates, by Karen Phillips and David Showler, are well executed and show multiple morphs (male, female, adult, immature, breeding, winter, dark phase, light phase, etc.) of each species as appropriate. Many are shown both perching and in flight. Color range maps accompany each plate along with English, scientific, and Chinese names using Chinese characters. Species accounts briefly describe appearance, voice, range, distribution and status within China, behavior, and habitat. In this section, Chinese names are given in pinyin romanized form. There are informative discussions of the physical, climatic, and floristic environment as well as Chinese culture, ornithological history, and avian conservation and biogeography. The book is also to be published in Chinese, making it accessible to many Asian ornithologists and birders, which will help facilitate the collection of more data on the fascinating but understudied Chinese avifauna.
A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore.—Allen Jeyarajasingam and Alan Pearson. 1999. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 460 pp., 72 color plates, 42 black-and-white drawings, 16 black-and-white maps, 6 appendices. ISBN 0-19-854962-8. $55.00 (paper). ISBN 0-19-854963-6 $95.00 (cloth).
The Malay Peninsula contains 665 native species of birds, in spite of the loss of 60% of its original equatorial rainforest. The illustrations by Alan Pearson are decent, with vivid colors, although they are a little lacking in depth. Distinct sexual forms are usually illustrated separately and age differences sometimes are. The plates are accompanied by very brief diagnostic descriptions and sizes. Species accounts, provided in a separate section, include information on description, voice, species range, regional distribution and status, habitat, and habits. Vernacular names are given in English and Bahasa Melayu, the local language. The book also provides succinct introductions to ornithological history, physiography, climate, habitats (natural and anthropogenic), birding areas, and avian biogeography, migration, and breeding in the region. Two of the appendices, one on nightbird calls and the other on barbet calls, are useful for field identification of these often confusing birds. Latitudes, longitudes, and elevations of many of the places named in the book are also included in appendices. Although too large to fit in the back pocket, this guide is still small enough (21 × 14.5 × 3.8 cm) to easily bring in the field. For a more in-depth review see Jepson (2000, Ibis 142:690) and McGowan (2001, Quarterly Review of Biology 76:94–95).