A Field Guide to the Birds of China: Ornithology Paperback – 8 Jun 2000
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...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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Thanks for a very prompt delivery.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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