With the exception of the excellent but long out of date Birds of the Soviet Union (in some editions known as the Birds of the USSR), there have been no dedicated books to Central Asia up until now, with birders visiting the popular birding destination of Kazakhstan having to rely on a combination of a European field guide and the Birds of the Indian Sub-continent. I recently did a review for Birding World on this book and I will re-iterate here that for anyone visiting any of the Central Asian countries (except Mongolia for which a field guide has been in progress for many years), this is the essential book. The plates and texts are excellent (although the illustrations of some species such as Eurasian Wryneck which is far too pale and some of the finches which aren't wholly accurate) and this book is recommended to all our clients on BIRDFINDERS tours to Kazakhstan.
This is definitely a very interesting addition to my field guide library. One particularly interesting aspect of this new book is the fact that it provides info for an area that - to me - constitutes somewhat of a no man's land and at the same time the transition between familiar Europe and less well known Asia, with Siberian migrants mixed in. Of course, one could glean this info from the now complete 16 volume series of the Handbook of the Birds of the World. But it is much more convenient and exciting to have a compilation of the avifauna of this little known region.
The basic layout follows the by now traditional - and thus most welcome - pattern with the plates on the right side of a page spread, and the text with a fine, informative range map on the left page. Up front, there is an interesting chapter on the various habitats of the area, and some info on the countries. Though one would need to do a fair bit of research if trying to visit the area on one's own, I think.
The species texts are concise, yet fairly detailed within the constraints of such a book, regarding identification info. A most welcome feature is the highlighting of the most important distinguishing features. There are brief notes on voice and habitat as well.
There is a bit of getting used to the variety of the plates. I think the number of illustrators has been a bit too large, or else the quality of their illustrations is too variable. And some colors have been overdone by quite a margin. At least, I have yet to see such a bright red on a Curlew Sandpiper, and some of the pigeons I'm familiar with look much more exciting than what I'm used to. I don't presume that this is a matter of geographical variation. So I wonder how the other pigeons really look like, the ones I am not familiar with.
Over all however, the book has lots of excellent plates, and many species shown make me eager to visit the area. I'd definitely love to visit the eastern parts of Kyrgyzstan and the south-east of Kazakhstan from what I have gleaned from this fine book.
It would seem that this book is not intended for local users, as it would need the addition of local names for that purpose. But it's definitely a good start from which such local editions would be possible.