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A Field Guide to the Birds of China [Paperback]

by John MacKinnon, Karen Phillipps
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 10, 2000 0198549407 978-0198549406
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 behavioral 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.

Frequently Bought Together

A Field Guide to the Birds of China + Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia (Princeton Field Guides) + Birds of Southeast Asia (Princeton Field Guides)
Price for all three: $110.52

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Editorial Reviews


"This field guide has been long awaited by the growing number of birders visiting China. By including in one volume all the species--complete with distribution maps--recorded in this vast country, it represents a huge step forward. It is the first complete, taxonomically up-to-date and fully illustrated guide to the birds of China published in English ... The initial chapters include an introduction to the region, with a revealing section on birds in the local economy and culture. ... Next come the 128 all-important colour plates, which have distribution maps opposite--an arrangement which I like. ... The species accounts cover nomenclature, descriptions, voice, range (global), distribution and status (within region) and habits, and occupy 500 pages. Finally, there are appendices which include lists of endangered and protected species, and endemic and limited-distribution species. ... This book is a major achievement and an invaluable conservation tool."--Birdwatch

"This field guide is a great step forward and essential for anyone with an interest in China's birds. For the first time, in any language, all China's 1329 species are described and illustrated in one book and despite containing more than 500 pages its A5 size makes it compact enough for easy field use. The layout is well thought is easy to identify which similar species should be present in a particular region of China. It is well worth the price of the book just to have all species illustrated accurately. Overall a good quality field guide that I would not be without." -- Ross MacLeod, British Ornithologists' Union, Vol 143, 2001

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 Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali which remains the standard bird guide to the Greater Sunda Islands.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 858 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198549407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198549406
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bible for birds in China October 23, 2001
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.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential January 20, 2001
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).
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Field Guide January 4, 2001
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have Field Guide for China's Birds June 12, 2008
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Field Guide to the Birds of China
We got it for an upcoming trip to China and are putting page numbers on the plate pages that correspond with the information pages and vice versa so it will be easier to use. Read more
Published 3 months ago by B Zimmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great condition and speedy delivery!
The book was in beautiful condition and arrived in time for my son's B-day and in time for him to take it back to China with him. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Renee S Moniot
4.0 out of 5 stars A Field Guide to the Birds of China
This is probably the most comprehensive and best guide to the birds of China. But it is not as good as field guides to some other countries. Read more
Published 18 months ago by shawco
5.0 out of 5 stars A Field Guide to the Birds of China
Every year we bring university students to China for lengthy field trips, and last year one of the students was an avid birder. Read more
Published on October 9, 2010 by Gail M Rossi
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, but clunky
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... Read more
Published on March 3, 2010 by Eleodes
5.0 out of 5 stars Birds of China
As I am going to China I wanted a field guide that showed the birds of that region and on the amount of information given on screen I was happy to purchase. Read more
Published on December 23, 2009 by Dfefuller
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for twitchers in China
Finding any book in English on Birds of China is a nightmare so I was even more delighted at the quality, presentation, ease of use and comprehensive coverage of this book. Read more
Published on January 6, 2009 by Scott Ballantyne
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Effort Artistically and Textually
We just completed a nine-day guided tour of the Tibetan plateau. Repeatedly, during this tour which allowed us to identify 165 species new to us, we attempted to use the subject... Read more
Published on September 8, 2008 by E. Long
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