Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia – Review

Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and RussiaPoachingFacts rating: 5 of 5 stars

All Princeton Field Guides fall into the “must have” category when it comes to packing for a long holiday of wildlife safaris and birding adventures. Birds of East Asia is no different and is an essential reference for anyone seeking detailed information on birds in this region. Note that this 2009 edition only contains information accurate as of 2006, the cut-off date for publishing, but has a number of other worthwhile features to build on.

As with other books in the Princeton Field Guides series, Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia by Mark Brazil, is a valuable resource providing myriad information on bird basics, habits, habitats, resident/visitor distribution, taxonomic classification, voices and calls, and nomenclature in a compact format. There are 234 color plates providing illustrations for representatives of the many bird families represented in this field guide. Additionally, 950 color maps provide straightforward identification of home and seasonal ranges for almost every species.

Like other Princeton Field Guides, the bulk of the field guide is laid out with information and the range of each bird species on the left page and a full-color image of each species on the right, often with juvenile, male, and female examples in addition to the underside as seen in flight. The illustrations depict some of the species perched, in flight, and even in different stages of development or breeding (juvenile, adult, breeding, non-breeding). A few species also have illustrations of the nest or close-ups of their tail and undertail-coverts. In the front of the book there is also a two-page visual defining the specific names and features of a bird and its plumage.

Birds of East Asia provides the best possible selection of information and means of accessing that data. The “Avian Topography and Terminology” section provides a visual that defines the specific names and parts of a bird and its body or plumage. A “Key to Families” glossary provides easy access to looking up specific groups of birds complete with a color example of a bird from that family for easy visual skimming. These glossaries, in addition to the “Status of Birds of East Asia” appendix sorted by common names, makes the book immensely accessible and easy to use for anyone interested in learning more about the approximately 985 avian species described in this field guide. A second appendix lists species, as of 2006, believed to be likely to reach Asia as vagrants. A combined index of both binomial and common names completes the book and is the most useful possible implementation of an index on this topic.

Overview & Comparison:

As with other Princeton Field Guides, the bulk of Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia is laid out with information and the range of each bird species on the left page and a full-color image of each species on the right, often with juvenile, male, and female examples in addition to the underside as seen in flight. The illustrations depict some of the species perched, in flight, and even in different stages of development or breeding (juvenile, adult, breeding, non-breeding). A few species also have illustrations of the nest or close-ups of their tail and undertail-coverts. In the front of the book there is also a two-page visual defining the specific names and features of a bird and its plumage.

The information on each bird is very concise and explains appearance, plumage appearance during certain seasons or stages of life, animal size, wingspan, voices and calls, and the status and biology of the species. Each species’ information comes in a single paragraph and is accompanied by a small map showing the estimated range of that species. The range maps have detailed borders but due to the size of the area covered may be slightly difficult to discern detail.

Measuring 8.25×6.0x1.13 inches (21.0×15.25×2.9 cm) Birds of East Asia retains the similar elongated proportions as other entries in the Princeton Field Guides series on birds. The book is still small enough to be carried around in a day pack, but hikers or photographers on a day-trip already carrying around a lot of weight might consider a more compact and region-specific field guide. Overall it’s a great asset to anyone with an interest in the birds of East Asia.


This and other PoachingFacts reviews are also available on GoodReads.com.