Sunday, November 16, 2014

Illustrated Field Guides to the Birds of Oriental South-east Asia

--- This blog writeup was first posted on September 12, 2010. Re-posted on Nov. 28, 2014 to include the newly published Field Guide of Wild Birds in Taiwan ---

One of the frequently asked questions from friends of mine, who are interested to learn birding, is about which field book shall they use when birding in Malaysia, and the region of oriental South-east Asia, including China and Taiwan. Therefore, I would like to share my personal opinions and recommendation about the field books which I have read and used in the field when birding in this region.

South China Sea as the central of the region, bordered by the Yangtze River in the North and Wallace Line in the South, this region ranges from subtropical Southern China to the Sundaland, Borneo, the Philippines and Taiwan. This region is known as the Oriental South-east Asia region, it is also located along the important flyway of the East-Asia-Australasia migratory birds. Therefore, this region is rich in both oriental birds and migratory birds of the East-Asia-Australasia region. 

Oriental South-east Asia Region

Following are my favourite illustrated field guides to the birds of Oriental South-east Asia region:

Mainland South-east Asia 
The most popular illustrated field guide to the birds of this region is the one by Craig Robson. The painting of the birds are in high quality and illustrated by a group of artists. This field guide is particularly useful in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Yunnan, China.

There are two types of printing versions of this field guide, the hardcover complete version and the softcover concise version. The hardcover version is a detailed book for further reference, the concise version is recommended if you need to bring the book to the field.

Birds of Thailand
A Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Boonsong Lekagul and Philip D. Round, is my favourite field guide to the birds of Thailand. The key field marks on every bird are clearly indicated, the field marks are particularly useful in the field to identify and differentiate the close related species. This book maybe out of print.

Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore
A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Allen Jeyarajasingam and Alan Pearson, is a recommended field guide to the birds of the Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Click HERE to find out more about the second edition.

Quick Facts on the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia
Total number of bird species = 656
Total number of resident birds = 445
Total number of species occurring as migrants = 185
Total number of species occurring as vagrants = 58
Total number of species with both resident and migratory populations = 40
Total number of species considered extinct within Peninsular Malaysia = 8
Total number of regional endemics = 4
Total number of threatened species = 126

My favourite field guide to the birds of Borneo is A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Susan Myer. It is a complete bird book of Borneo with species distribution maps, the painting of the birds are in high quality, a good reference for detailed identification of Borneo birds. The other reason why I select this book is because the author separates the songbirds into two main clades, the Corvidans and Passeridans based on the phylogenetic relationships among modern birds.

Indonesian Sundaland
A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali, by John Mackinnon, illustrated by Karen Phillips, is a recommended field guide to the birds of Indonesia's islands of the Sundaland, which include Kalimantan, Sumatra, Java and Bali. This book is a bit bulky to bring to the field, but shouldn't be any problem if you bring a backpack.

The Bahasa Indonesia edition of this field guide (panduan lapagan) and other field guides to the birds of Sulawasi, Wallacea and Papua, can be purchased through Burung Indonesia.

The Philippines
Philippines is one of the countries in Asia with high endemic species of birds, located at the important East-Asian-Australasian Flyway of the migratory birds. A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines by Robert Kennedy et al. is the recommended field guide to the birds of the Philippines. I haven't visited Philippines and do not have this field guide, but I have read the content of this field guide in the library at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. 

Taiwan is one of the countries in this region with high endemic species of birds, is one of the recommended birding sites in Asia, find out more from Wild Bird Society of Taipei 

A newly published Field Guide of Wild Birds in Taiwan by Mu-Chi Hsiao (main author), Cheng-Lin Li (artist), is a recommended field guide to the wild birds of Taiwan, including the islands of Kinmen, Matsu. The book is written in Chinese, with the exception of the common and scientific name, the paintings of birds and their habitats are excellence and the key field marks are clearly indicated. The index of the book comes with Chinese, English and Japanese. This book can be purchased from Wild Bird Society of Taipei or any bookshop in Taiwan.

Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan illustrated by Takashi Taniguchi is the first field guide in Taiwan, which is now a collectible item. Another collectible field guide illustrated by Takashi Taniguchi is A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia, published by Wild Bird Society of Japan.

For the complete information about the birds of Taiwan,  click HERE to download a free book of Birds of Taiwan (台灣鳥類誌), in traditional Chinese only.

My favourite field guide to the birds of China is the one by John Mackinnon, illustrated by Karen Phillips. It is a complete book with species distribution maps, the illustrations of the birds are clear. The Chinese edition is available with an affordable price, which can be purchased from Wild Bird Society of Taipei.


The birds of Hong Kong and South China by Clive Viney, Karen Philips and Lam Chiu Ying, is a good field guide to the birds of South-China region, with the emphasis on birds of Hong Kong. The Chinese edition is also available from Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and Wild Bird Society of Taipei. Mark Brazil's Birds of East Asia is also strongly recommended bird book of this region, which also includes North China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Far-east Russia.


I hope that this blog writeup provides sufficient and useful information to those who are interested to bird watch in this region, the Oriental South-east Asia region.

Happy Birding.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica), a rare birds in Taiwan but common in Malaysia. It was sighted at Tainan City Park on 28th of December 2013, a day for the "New Year Bird Count" event in Taiwan.

Happy Birding and Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oriental Pratincole in Tainan

To re-post my lifer on 24-7-2011. Oriental Pratincole, a summer migrant at Guantian in Tainan.

Happy Birding. 

Caspian Tern at Taijiang National Park in Tainan.

Caspian Tern, one of the common abundant birds at Taijiang National Park in Tainan.

Taijiang National Park and Sihcao Wetland Ecology in Tainan are the recommended birding sites to see these endangered species of Black-faced Spoonbills as well as other water birds of Asia, both areas are IBA (Important Bird Area) recognized by BirdLife International.

Happy Birding.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prinia in the Summer

In this summer, I have sighted two species of Prinia, namely the Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata) and Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris), both were my lifer in Taiwan in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

The Yellow-bellied Prinia was digiscoped at Huben in Yunlin, the call of the bird is easily recognized, it sounds like a goat calling. The Plain Prinia was digiscoped at Barclay Memorial Park in Tainan, it is the most common Prinia in that park (I hope the Tainan City Government will stop destroying their natural habitat at the park). Both Prinia are the fascinating birds, always like to play and seek, hide behind or under the bushes.

(click on the pictures for the enlarged view)

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Plain Prinia
Finally exposed

Happy Birding