Phuketbirdwatching.com

News and Information on Birding Sites Throughout Thailand and the Andaman

A Photographic Guide to Birds of Thailand is a book most people will be referred to when inquiring about field guides in a local bookstore in Thailand. –And from the looks of it, it sells quite well.

With Craig Robson’s field guide being hard to come by nowadays and Round and Lekagul’s guide being terribly out of date, there is a huge demand on the market for bird identification books. Since this book seems to be the only one in print at the moment, many amateur birders have taken to using it in the field.

For the majority of people interested in buying a basic field identification guide, this book seems to hit all the right buttons: it’s small, inexpensive, concise, and comes with full-color photographs of all 252 species of birds presented.

-Wait … did I just say 252 species???

About the Book

The book is just one in a trio of photographic field guides which depict the fauna of the Southeast Asian region. The other two books cover mammals and reptiles and snakes respectively. The books were designed to provide insight into the wildlife of the region, although I tend to look at them as a “beginners course” for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The book portrays 252 species of birds divided into 35 categories. Most of the major families of birds have at least one or two species represented in the booklet.

The first 14 pages are dedicated to introducing the reader to birdwatching in the kingdom. It includes a list of some of the major birdwatching sites in the country, a map of birding locations and a glossary for those who are not familiar with birding terminology or the anatomy of a bird.

The fact that it is a paperback instead of a hardcover booklet plays into the notion of it being a pocketbook field guide, although it lacks the durability which hardcover books provide. The small size and paperback cover make it very easy to thumb through. The pages are semi-gloss but do not repel even the smallest amounts of moisture like other field guides I’ve seen.

As mentioned in the Introduction section on the first page, this book was never meant to be a standalone guide for birders. The author himself states that “there will no doubt be some for which the dedicated birdwatcher may need the more comprehensive book”.

The Upsides

_78A7984_resize

– This guide is small and light. The publishers refer to it as a “pocket-sized birding guide”. I didn’t agree to that statement until recent years when pants pockets started getting deeper due to the growing demand for outrageously large-screen mobile phones. This book is just slightly larger than a 7-inch tablet or smartphone.

– This book is cheap in comparison to other field guides. –Perhaps the cheapest one out there at the time of writing.

– The majority of the birds covered in this guide are birds which are most likely to be encountered by first-time birders to the kingdom. For this reason it seems to be a good fit for amateur or novice birders who are not too serious about filling up the stats sheet with a long list of species seen.

– Photographs are (in some ways) better than illustrations. They more accurately portray what the bird looks like in real life.

– Unlike the larger, more comprehensive field guides, this book has no quick identification spread on the back of the front cover. However, it makes up for the loss by adding a color-coded side tab which makes it relatively quick and easy to find the family you are looking for. I hope that other field guides will incorporate this idea into their future editions.

The Downsides

– The book details only 252 species of birds. As of January 2014 we have 1,017 species on the Thai list. –Need I say more?

– There are no distribution plates accompanying the text.

– Text on the species is very limited and does not describe calls or bird behavior.

– If the author describes the book as made to “cover the vast majority of birds which the average visitor should see”, then why would birds such as Great Argus, Crested Fireback, Masked Finfoot, Wooly necked Stork and Nicobar Pigeon be included while Streak eared Bulbul, Abbott’s Babbler and Whiskered Tern are omitted from the book?

– No offense to the photographer, but many of the photos in the guide are poor quality. Issues range from things like high ISO settings to dark backgrounds which blend with black or dark colored markings on the birds, making it difficult to discern certain features. Some people will also take exception to the flash photography used in some photos which tends to “light up” certain reflective features on the plumage.

– I could be wrong but the photograph referring to the Streaked Wren Babbler on page 98 looks like a misidentification. –Or perhaps it was photographed in another country as the ones in Thailand sure don’t look like that.

In a Nutshell

It’s not going to excite or fill the niche for serious birdwatchers and at the same time will not be of use or interest to non-birders; so which market was this book intended for?

This book was handed to me as a gift and quite frankly, I’ve never had much use for it other than to let my kids read it in the hopes it would spark an interest in birdwatching. It would quickly be reduced to shreds if I used it in the field so I opted to store it on my bookshelf along with my other desktop field guides. It looks good there and will probably continue to collect dust for the next couple of decades to come.

The Photographic Guide to Birds of Thailand is an excellent idea but needs a complete revamp before any dedicated birdwatcher will take it seriously. We’ll need at least 1000 species in the book with decent photographs of at least 800 of the species – in today’s digital world and with the amount of photographic talent out there on the market, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

All this will equate to a larger book which will undoubtedly cost more and will see this book graduating from the level of “pocketbook” into “desktop” or “field edition”. –But hey, isn’t that what the market is demanding right now?

Categories: Gear Reviews

Leave a Reply


  • Noteworthy

    Special Thanks to Peter Ericsson, Ian Dugdale, Weine Drotz and Hermann Drotz for contributing their photos to this website. All photos displayed in this website are used with permission from the owner.
  • Contact

    Phone: (66)081-535-5014 Email: phuketbirder@gmail.com