Birds of Hong Kong and South China Paperback – 1 Jan 1994
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When comparing the first edition of this book to the more recent eighth edition, a very positive evolution is apparent in the artwork. Covering all the birds found in Hong Kong, this guide does a superb job at illustrating them. Where applicable, multiple illustrations are given for the various plumages, such as male vs. female, fresh vs. worn, and adult vs. juvenile. This variation helps to make the book one of the top choices for birding in southeast China. Just to offer a critique, perhaps a little more definition could have been put into the illustrations of the various Muscicapa flycatchers; some of the Phylloscopus warblers appear a bit too green; and, the Acrocephala warblers need a little more detail in the plumages. However, nearly all artists (and birders) would probably receive the same criticism for these tough groups.
The text for each bird ranges from 4-10 lines of concise physical descriptions along with identification notes. These comments are quite often little too brief, but they are still very helpful. Another sentence or two covers the voice, status, and range of the bird.
To make the book a bit more functional, a nice feature was the inclusion of a specific symbol next to the bird's name. This symbol designates the bird's annual presence in Hong Kong. Another nice touch not found in many other field guides is providing a section on birding locations. Nine pages cover a variety of birding locations in Hong Kong along with a list of birds expected to be found.
As a side note, many of the artist's illustrations in this book are found in an earlier title, Chim Viet Nam (Birds of Vietnam) of 2000. However, the printing in this Hong Kong book are done with greater clarity and color reproduction.
It would be great to see this field guide expanded to cover all of China. Doing so would make it the better guide for this country. For anyone familiar with the artist's works, that last statement might seem a bit contradictory since the other English guide (A Field Guide to the Birds of China by MacKinnon & Phillipps) shares the same artist. However, this Hong Kong guide uses different illustrations that seem to be a little sharper and are certainly larger. If your trip to China involves only Hong Kong, I recommend this book over the other notably bulkier (and more fragile of binding) book. -- (written by Jack, shown with sample pages at Avian Review, July 2008)
I've listed several related books below...
1) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hong Kong by HKBS (ISBN 9621428947)
2) The Avifauna of Hong Kong by Carey (ISBN 9627508020)
3) Hong Kong Birds by Herklots
4) The Birds of China by de Schauensee
5) A Field Guide to the Birds of China by MacKinnan/Phillipps
6) Birds of China by Zhang
7) Les oiseaux de Chine, de Mongolie et de Coree non passereaux by Etchecopar
8) Photographic Guide to Birds of China by MacKinnon/Hicks
The cover opens with a very detailed, two page map of the region in question and there is also a two page map inside the back cover with just Hong Kong. There follows the introduction to the book with notes on the features, one of which is a new feature which is a solid blue dot, open blue dot and blue ring for each of the species occurrence in the region, from common to rare. There are 11 pages of information on birding sites including a nice two page map of the Mai Po nature reserve. There are notes on where and when to go and what to expect when you get there. Next there follows the Hong Kong Calender discussing what to look for and where to look for it during periods of the year. There follows a fairly long glossary, a page on zoogeoraphic regions and bird topography.
There are 101 plates of Karen Phillipps excellent artwork. The plates aren't too crowded and printed quite clear and sharp. There are very few illustrations that are too small with the exception of a few in flight that are a bit on the smallish side. Many of the species are illustrated with several plumages and where appropriate the subspecies are illustrated too. The last two plates are dedicated to those species seen in Hainan which you don't get in Hong Kong.
Facing each plate is a page of notes on each of the species. Each family is introduced with notes on the family then the species descriptions which start with Field Notes. I really like this feature as it points out what features and behaviors to look for in identifying a particular species while eliminating other similar ones and what habitats to find them in. Several plumgaes are discussed for the many wintering birds as well as male/female/juvenile. Subspecies are mentioned where relevant and some notes on voice are included but not frequently. Range and Status cover a few lines.
As Hong Kong is a busy hub of commerce there is need for this guide for any lucky business traveler who can add a couple of days to take some time to see some of these birds. This will be a valuable addition too for anyone traveling through the region en route to somewhere else in Asia who can add a few days in their travels.