Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The state of books on Birds and Field Guides for Borneo today.

In the not so distant past, as recently as middle of 2007, anyone who wished to acquire a field guide of the birds of Borneo had to content with the venerable A field guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by Johhn MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps, first published in 1993 and was out of print and unavailable for a number of years since its last reprint in 2001.  It went for reprint again in 2006 and I immediately ordered myself a copy from the UK once it was made available in 2007.

It remained the only field guide for the Bornean region, no other Southeast Asia field guide cover the Bornean species. The Pocket Guide to the Birds of Borneo published by The Sabah Society in 1985  is useful to a limited extent and it is long overdue for updating.

Those more ornithologically inclined could always refer to Birds of Borneo by B. E. Smythies and revised by Geoffrey Davison published in 1999. It is not a field guide per se as it is a hardbound book with over 800 pages and easily weighing more than 2 kgs. It is,  together with Ornithological Monograph No. 52 by Federick H. Sheldon et al, published in 2001, more suited as a reference source than a field guide that you carry to the field.

In 2008, British Ornithologist's Union published BOU Checklist No. 23, The Birds of Borneo An Annotated Checklist. In which the author  Clive Mann made comprehensive revisions to the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Bornean species.

This book can be ordered here.

In 2009, during the Borneo Birds Festival held at Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sandakan, on 10th October 2009, 2 new field guides for Borneo were officially launched and a photographic guide to the birds of Sepilok Forest was made available for sale.

1. Phillipps' Field Guide To The Birds Of Borneo, by Quentin Phillipps and illustrated by Karen Phillipps. You guessed it right, they are brother and sister. This softcover book is 368 pages, covering 664 Borneo bird species with distribution maps, with detailed coverage of all 51 Borneo endemics. It has more than 2,000 full colour bird images together with maps and descriptions of top 130 birding sites in Borneo. (This field guide follows extensively the taxonomy and nomenclature of BOU Checklist No. 23 by  Clive Mann).

This book can be ordered here.

Edited to add: The second edition of this field guide has been published in 2011. The cover is updated as shown below.


2. A Field Guide To The Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers, with artworks by bird artists who drew plates for Craig Robson's Field Guide for Southeast Asia. This hardcover book has 274 pages describing  633 species with color plates and distribution maps. 50 Borneo endemics are described in this field guide. (The taxonomy and nomenclature of this field guide follows that of Robson's 2008 edition of  A field Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia).

This  book can be ordered here.

Either one of them is a welcomed bonus to supplement the limited literature available for birds of this region and we are indeed lucky to have two field guides published for this region in the same period. This shows that both authors have visioned the  need of an updated  field guide for Borneo, and went on to produce one, we thank them for the hard work and effort.

3. A Photographic Guide to The Birds of The Sepilok Forest,  as its name implies, a photographic guide compiled by Cede Prudente, Robert Ong and Borneo Bird Club. It is published by the Sabah Forestry Department in 2009 and included some stunning photos contributed by photographers in Malaysia. Though the book is titled Birds of Sepilok Forest, it contains photos of most of the lowland forest birds in Borneo, it is about 112 pages and comes in a very handy size, it will  be a good starting guide for  new bird watcher and first time bird tourist visiting Borneo.

This book can be ordered here.

During this short span of  two years from 2008 to 2009, we see 4 books published for the avifauna of Borneo, 1 Checklist, 1 photographic guide and 2 field guides. The dilemma now is deciding which field guide to follow in case of different opinion in taxonomy and nomenclature.

Edited to add on 5th August 2012: My small little Naturalist's Guide to the Birds of Borneo has been published.

Happy birding.

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