Japan is home to a spectacular and diverse range of birds, and this up-to-date text covers the identification, voice, habitat, behaviour and range of all the species and subspecies found across the beautiful and fascinating Japanese archipelago. The authoritative text is accompanied by superb full-colour plates painted by an expert artist and covers all major plumage variations. Birds of Japan will ensure that this top birding destination is made accessible to all.
- The essential field guide to the region, covering 700 species recorded in Japan, including vagrants
- 189 superb colour plates with detailed identification text and accurate colour distribution maps on facing pages
- Species accounts cover key features, including distribution, habitat, identification and voice
- Colour maps show the breeding, wintering and migration distributions of all regularly occurring species
A new guidebook for birds of Japan in English has been a real necessity for many years now. The previous English language books since 1985 have not matched the Wild Bird Society of Japan's volume of that year. Mark Brazil, the highly respected bird expert has stepped up to the plate with this new volume. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite delivered. Firstly the new book is a paperback and it is the kind of paperback that needs a cover. By itself, it wouldn't last as a field guide being too flimsy to survive. For a book sold as a field guide, this is not acceptable – such a book at least needs to be a hardback. The second big issue with the volume is the complete lack of Japanese bird names. Nowhere in the species descriptions is there any Japanese name. For a birder wishing to communicate with Japanese nature reserve staff or Japanese birders, this is a serious omission. The 1985 guide contained not only Japanese names in the species descriptions but an index of Japanese names. This feature would have been far more useful than the 'essay' on Japanese geography, climate and biogeography included in the introduction. This quite frankly is a waste of space. Another dubious feature is Appendix 3 – Species likely to occur in Japan in the future. This does not mention as a possibility the Turkey Vulture, for example, which I saw and photographed in Chiba this year. Speculation of this nature is merely padding and adds nothing to the volume.
For the plates Brazil has borrowed heavily from other Helm publications; Kennerley and Pearson for reed and bush warblers and Alstrom and Mild for pipits. This in itself is not significant but the difference in illustration style does jar. However, with the illustrations, there are a trifle too many vagrants and accidentals for comfort. It is really not necessary to have a whole page on pelicans, a very rare species in Japan when you only have one illustration of a Japanese tit a highly significant endemic. Other drawings to watch out for are the male Eurasian wigeon, the Narcissus flycatcher (it is not as orange as depicted) which also lacks a drawing of the juvenile phase. The Goldcrest drawing can also only be described as disappointing but in general, the illustrations are accurate and well drawn. Once again the focus needs to be on the birds birders are more likely to see not the rarities. The Japanese bush warbler drawings also need to be expanded – two are nowhere near enough and the Korean bush warbler was an unnecessary inclusion. Why the Black swan was included in the main body is also questionable as is the bunting section. There was no need for so much on the Ortolan (an extremely rare vagrant) and the 'Masked bunting' is not a familiar designation for the 'Black faced bunting'.
Descriptions are generally accurate apart from the surprising omission of the breeding population of Tiger shrikes in Niigata (both observed and photographed). Once again though the knowledgeable reader gets an impression of too much focus on the peripherals and not the centre. So a much-needed updating of the previous guides but a bit of a curates egg. The author needs to sit down and to think what birders actually need from a guide of this sort. What has been delivered covers more species but in layout and style falls short of the previous guides.