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A Field Guide to the Birds of China: Ornithology [Paperback]

John MacKinnon , Karen Phillipps , Dave Showler
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: £41.99
Price: £35.96 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 Jun 2000
China is one of the largest countries in the world, covering 7% of the earth's land surface, and encompassing a hugely diverse range of habitats. As a result it boasts a rich and diverse avifauna, including some of the most spectacular and fascinating birds to be found anywhere in the world. John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps' important new guide will be the first truly comprehensive, taxonomically modern, and fully illustrated field guide to the birds of China. Over 1300 bird species are illustrated in 128 original colour paintings, by Karen Phillipps and Dave Showler. The species accounts stress the key points for field recognition and give a full description of the plumage, voice, range, distribution, status, and behavioural characteristics for every bird, with additional descriptions provided for hundreds of subspecies. Colour distribution maps are provided for all illustrated species. The book also includes a useful introductory section that presents a background to the ecology of China, a brief history of Chinese ornithology, and plenty of practical hints on birdwatching in China. The guide's portable format means it will fit easily into a backpack or pocket. John MacKinnon lived in China and Hong Kong for eight years, and has extensive experience of watching and writing about Chinese birds. He has been working in ecology and conservation in Asia for over 30 years, and his work in China included co-authoring the master plan to save the Giant Panda and its habitat. He has written and co-authored many books on the natural history of Asia, including a number of other bird guides. Karen Phillipps was born in Borneo, lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and has illustrated several other books on the birdlife of the region.

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A Field Guide to the Birds of China: Ornithology + Mammals of China (Princeton Pocket Guides)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 600 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198549407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198549406
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 14 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 429,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


...a much needed addition to the world of birding fieldguides, which will immediately be welcomed, not just for being there, but also for having excellent clear illustrations. good clean distribution maps (thanks to David MacKinnon) and well written and comprehensive text. Fatbirder, birding reviews, November 2007

'This book would get the thumbs up even if there was an alternative available' Birdwatching

About the Author

John MacKinnon is Professor of Biodiversity Information at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. He is currently posted in the Philippines as head of a European Union project to set up an ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation. He is Chairman of a Special Biodiversity Working Group that advises the Chinese Government on biodiversity matters, and formerly spent eight years living in China and Hong Kong working on a number of conservation projects in China. Apart from many technical reports on China he has published two other books on the country - Wild China and A Photoguide to the Birds of China. Among several other books on natural history of Asia, he is also the senior author of A FieldGuide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali which remains the standard bird guide to the Greater Sunda Islands.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This is a worldwide family of ground-living birds with short round wings but often long tails. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a curate's egg: good in parts 28 Nov 2000
This is the best guide to the birds of China on the market. However there is not much competition. By the standard of many modern bird books this one is slightly disappointing. The plates are of variable quality with the worst (of geese) being of little assistance in identification. There are too many typographical errors. The text is limited which is to an extent understandable given the number of species described. All in all this book did not quite live up to expectations.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very good 22 April 2010
By Stephen
I had to buy this book as I was travaling to Mongolia and as there was not a book out that covers that country. (there is now though)
I have 2 problems with this book.
First the artwork is not very good and second. the plates and the tex are on separate pages so if you want to read up on a species while out in the field you have to go to the back of the book and franticly flick through the pages and when you find the tex for the bird you are looking at. OH! its flown off.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a useful guide overall 20 Aug 2014
By Hyde
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a useful guide overall, though some plates were good, while others, particularly finches were poor, the latter rendering some species unidentifiable. The text appears quite good for a field guide, however, as the book has been confiscated for a present for my birthday next month I will hopefully have more time for a thorough assessment.

Thanks for a very prompt delivery.
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Purchased for my husband - who is very impressed by the quality of the illustrations and the comprehensive details given.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bible for birds in China 23 Oct 2001
By Jack P. Hailman - Published on Amazon.com
A Field Guide to the Birds of China is a must for any traveler who wants to identify birds in China. De Schauensee's earlier Birds of China is not really a field guide although it provides useful background reading. A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan includes a lot of the species occurring in eastern China, and the Beijing area is included in most of the range maps, so if you don't have the MacKinnon-Phillips new guide, this is second best.
All species of known regular occurrence somewhere in China are illustrated in excellent drawings by Karen Phillips, all but a few in full color. Colored range maps are on the page facing each of the 128 plates. The text for each species provides a detailed description, voice, distribution and status, habits (useful), and in some cases a note on taxonomy.
I used this book for more than two weeks in China during October 2001 and confidently identified every bird I got a decent look at. (Regrettably, eastern China is not exactly overrun with exotic birds, but you can find some interesting species even in the cities.)
The most noticeable problem with this book is its sheer bulk; at 256 pages of plates, 586 pages of text, and some front material, this monster tops out at well over 800 pages and won't fit in most fanny packs, not to mention pockets. So taking a utility knife with a new blade, I sliced the spine following the last plate and taped the last page to the spine, creating a book of front matter, 10 pages of introduction and all the plates and range maps--a tad over a third the thickness of the whole book. A few species are illustrated in black-and-white in the text, so I xeroxed those (with their black-and-white range maps) and pasted them below the range maps of appropriate plates. I left the text home.
The book is not without minor errors, of course. For example, the range maps on plate 35 mistakenly call the Red Phalarope the Red-necked Phalarope, with the same error in the scientific name (although, curiously, the Chinese name appears to be correct). Both species are illustrated. On plate 56 the illustration of the Red-throated Loon is mistakenly marked with the species number of the Common Loon (which is also illustrated and correctly numbered on the same plate). On plate 72 the female Japanese Paradise-flycatcher is so marked but the symbol for the male is missing. Most users can figure out such slips.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 20 Jan 2001
By Wayne Hsu - Published on Amazon.com
This book is absolutely essential for any birder who plans to visit any of the regions covered in this guide. The plates are very good and the descriptions are detailed. This is probably the most up-to-date guide for the region. The taxonomy is based on Sibley and Monroe, and nearly all subspecies and their ranges are listed. There is even an edition in simplified Chinese available in China and Hong Kong. However, covering such a broad region has its drawbacks, and at least in Taiwan, I recommend that this book be used more as a reference than field guide. A bird's voice often varies across its range, and the status of a species in one location can be completely different in another. For example, the White-bellied Green Pigeon, described by the book as "very rare," is in fact common in Taiwan. The quality of the plates is sometimes inconsistent (e.g. the geese and swans on plate 7 look very small!). Also, errors I've noticed include where the range map does not correspond with the descriptions (e.g. Eurasian Jay, plate 67), the bird number on the plate does not correspond with that of the range map and descriptions (e.g. Varied Tit, plate 88), and some typos (e.g. Pygmy Wren Babbler subspecies, plate 105). Although Appendix 2 lists the species endemic to the region, it left out at least three species from Taiwan (Yellow Tit, Collared Bush Robin, and Taiwan Whistling Thrush). In general, this book is excellent and highly recommended, but I do hope a new edition will be published in the future that fixes the errors and include new discoveries made since publication (e.g. Chinese Crested Tern, Taiwan Bush Warbler).
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Field Guide 4 Jan 2001
By Doug Wimberley - Published on Amazon.com
This field guide is a well done book introducing the birds of China to its readers. It is fairly standard as far as field guides goes in content. The book contains 128 color plates depicting the birds of China with the corresponding range maps opposite the plates. Next, the descriptions of the 1329 species are given. Herein lies the major problem with the book, the descriptions are not adjacent to the plates; however, had the book been arranged in this manner, the number of pages would have at least doubled and the book is already a bit cumbersome for use as a field guide at its present size.
A couple of other bits of useful information in this book include a map detailing vegetation type and an introduction to the region. Also, a list of protected and endangered species is included. For researchers, a nice bibliography is also included. Whether you just want to look at birds from a country you never plan on going to, or if you intend to go birding in China, this book is for you.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have Field Guide for China's Birds 13 Jun 2008
By Joseph A. Verica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I visit Taiwan at least once a year, and always make it a point to do as much birding as possible. The main problem I have faced in the past has been finding a good English language field guide. I have always used James Wan-Fu Chang's "Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan" (ISBN-13: 978-0917056437), and Wu Sen-Hsiong's "A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan" (ISBN 957-9578-00-1). Both books are very good, and highly recommended. However, each has its drawbacks. The main one being that both are written in Chinese, although Chang's guide does have very brief descriptions of range, habitat and status in English. In addition, both books are a bit out-dated.

The MacKinnon & Phillips guide addresses these drawbacks. For starters, it is written entirely in English. The paintings are generally of high quality, and differences between subspecies are indicated. Range maps are also shown on the page facing the paintings. The descriptions of many (but not all) species are fairly well detailed, and the ranges for subspecies is also described.

The guide does have some minor problems, which are probably unavoidable. Because of the large geographical size of the area covered, and the number of species described (over 1300), the guide is quite bulky - and somewhat expensive. In addition, the descriptions are in the back of the guide, rather than on the page adjacent to the paintings, making it somewhat inconvenient to use. As I have alluded above, some of the species descriptions, particularly those of the Taiwan endemics, seemed to have been glossed over (perhaps to save space in an already sizable guide). And although most of the paintings are of high quality, not all were. Overall, I think they are slightly inferior to those of the Wu guide. That being said, no field guide is perfect. Putting a field guide together requires a lot of patience and a great deal of hard work. I, for one, really appreciate the dedication and effort of the authors.

All in all, this is the best field guide to the birds of China available. I would highly recommend this guide.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, but clunky 3 Mar 2010
By Eleodes - Published on Amazon.com
This is *the* comprehensive guide to birds of China as a whole, which is particularly important for the central and western parts of the country that are not covered in other field guides. However, for eastern China (including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong--the destinations of most foreign visitors to China), it's not the guide I'll be carrying around in my pack for two reasons. First, it's huge! Second (and more important), the layout is clunky. The birds are depicted on plates at the front, whereas the species descriptions are in the back. I hate flipping back and forth, particularly in a large book that really takes two hands to hold. For eastern China, I recommend Mark Brazil's guide--it's smaller, and the drawings, maps, and descriptions are all on the same page.
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