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Field Guides & Natural History  Ornithology  Birds of Asia-Pacific

Guide to the Birds of China

Field / Identification Guide
By: John MacKinnon(Author), Karen Phillipps(Illustrator), Yang Xiao Nong(Illustrator), Liu Li Hua(Illustrator), Xiao Yao(Illustrator), Gao Zhi(Illustrator), Gao Chang(Illustrator), Lan Jian Jun(Illustrator), Annie MacKinnon(Illustrator), Lu Hefen(Contributor), Yifan Li(Contributor), Hu Yun Biao(Contributor)
513 pages, 164 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps
Guide to the Birds of China
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  • Guide to the Birds of China ISBN: 9780192893673 Edition: 2 Paperback Jan 2022 In stock
  • Guide to the Birds of China ISBN: 9780192893666 Edition: 2 Hardback Jan 2022 Out of Print #253460
Selected version: £41.99
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Guide to the Birds of ChinaGuide to the Birds of ChinaGuide to the Birds of ChinaGuide to the Birds of ChinaGuide to the Birds of China

About this book

China covers about 7% of the earth's land surface and encompasses 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.

Building on the enormous popularity and reputation of the original A Field Guide to the Birds of China (2000), John MacKinnon's fully updated and refreshed work remains a truly comprehensive, taxonomically modern, fully illustrated, and authoritative field guide. 1484 bird species are richly illustrated in 164 annotated colour plates, which are closely integrated with up-to-date colour distribution maps, QR codes providing easy access to birdcalls, IUCN Red List status indicators and new, concise descriptions. These descriptions feature key observations as well as conveying crucial changes to species distributions resulting from climate change and landscape transformation.

Guide to the Birds of China will appeal to an international and growing audience of professional and amateur ornithologists and birding enthusiasts, academic researchers and students, wildlife photographers, and conservationists.


Introduction to the Region
A Brief History of Ornithology in China
Practical Tips for Birdwatching
Anatomy and Plumage of a Bird
Glossary of Terms Used

Species Descriptions, Maps and Plates

Additional Birds
Selected Bibliography

Customer Reviews (2)

  • Most comprehensive field guide for China
    By Falk 8 Feb 2022 Written for Paperback
    I’m somewhat attached to the oriental region and as such a keen observer of the field guide market.
    I was looking forward to this brand new book but I am a little disappointed. I will say that this book is probably still the most comprehensive travel companion for the country but I’m not impressed by the layout at all. It requires a constant going back and forth through pages because plates and descriptions are not next to each other, as you would expect with any field guide coming out these days. The quality of the plates varies significantly and hasn’t really progressed from the 2001 guide, IMHO. I personally don’t love the “old-school“ approach of using pointers in the plates to highlight key differences between species. Some expected mistakes pop up, e.g. Sillem’s Rosefinch in the description turns into Sillem’s Mountain Finch on the plate, Nonggang Babbler has been confirmed in N Vietnam and is not a maybe anymore.
    I do like the QR codes for bird calls and the fact that it does seem to be comprehensive. If you’re travelling to China and are not put off by the annoying layout and inconsistent quality of artwork this will be the book for you.
    26 of 40 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No
  • Probably good, but layout is incomprehensible
    By Daniel 14 Sep 2022 Written for Paperback
    This book is a great update from the last version (from 2000), especially in plates like the Phylloscopus warblers that are actually identifiable in this edition. Many other plates are reused from the old edition, which means they look old-fashioned and flat. There are QR codes to take you to the sounds of the birds, and in general, this is a great step forward compared to other books available for China. However, the layout of this book is incomprehensible. Instead of the usual way field guides are arranged with text-facing illustrations, the editors of this book decided to mix text and plates so that some spreads are the standard text-facing-illustrations, some are just text, some are mainly text with one or two illustrations at the bottom, and some spreads are all illustrations. In almost all cases, it didn't have to be this confusing as the plates could have been rearranged.

    Moreover, they add to this confusion by not giving PAGE NUMBERS in the index. Instead, the numbers given are the individual bird number (which serves no purpose as all birds are named on the plates) and the plate number, which is hidden near the spine of the book for all plates, whereas the page number is at the outer corners and easily seen.

    Finding a specific bird thus means flipping through the book and looking at the bird numbers, which are not in order on the plates. For instance, plate 130 starts at the upper left with bird 1144, and ends at the lower right with bird 1145, between which are 1146–1151 (1151 is also duplicated on the next page for no clear reason). This may be okay for small groups, where all birds in a family are on the same plate, but on other plates, you need to go back and forth trying to find your bird. For instance, plate 98 starts at the upper left with bird 833, and ends at the lower right with bird 850, but birds 835–844 are on another plate! Within a plate, there is no correspondence between bird number and where they are located on the plate; for instance on plate 103, with the difficult-to-tell-apart grey-crowned warblers, the bird are arranged 886-880-882-884-887-885-883-889-888-881, rather than placing the birds in numerical order or at least in some way that is consistent with the order of species in the text (which, incidentally, is overleaf).

    If you find the text, there is no reference to which plate this bird is on. Sure, it is listed at the top which plates have illustrations of the birds on that page, but not for individual birds. For instance, the tits listed on page 261 are said to be on plates 89, 90, and 91, but it does not say which bird is where, meaning more unnecessary flipping. In this case, they don't even appear in any kind of order, as bird 759 is on plate 89, birds 760–761 on plate 91, 762–763 are on plate 90.

    In other cases, the text is far removed from the plates and not in a consistent way; for instance, the cormorants (only one of which species is illustrated fully) are on plate 21, page 65, but the text doesn't appear until page 69, after plate 22.

    These layout decisions are incomprehensible, and detract a lot from the use of this book outside the office.

    There are a lot of smaller issues as well, like how the plate for Hodgson's hawk cuckoo is unnamed, the flying breeding-plumage Ross's gull is partially hidden behind the background of the flying 1st winter, and the lack of the distal tail of the flying Black-winged kite, but these are minor issues compared to the bizarre layout choices.

    In all, it is a good book for people who like turning pages, but not a good book for birdwatchers who may want to find the correct information before the bird flies away. Still, due to the paucity of bird books for China, it is, unfortunately, the best book for the country out there.
    11 of 12 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


John MacKinnon is an honorary Professor at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. He has spent many years in China working on a variety of conservation projects for WWF, World Bank, European Union, and UNDP. He has written many papers, reports and several books on Chinese biodiversity plus several books on Asian birds. John's interests range into mammals and butterflies, photography and film-making. His wife Lu Hefen (Monica) has helped widely in the translation and organization of the production and his daughter Annie is an artist who has provided several plates for the book.

The late Karen Phillipps (1948-2020) was born in SE Asia and had a long track record of illustrating books on birds, mammals, and even plants of China and SE Asia. Her interpretations of wildlife are much loved and encouraged and inspired so many readers to become actively involved in appreciating and watching their local fauna. More than 1000 of Karen's paintings are featured in this book.

Additional artwork has been provided by a total of seven new artists for this book. Yang Xiao Nong has painted the difficult leaf warblers, harriers, and some thrushes; Liu Li Hua has tackled some of the tricky wren babblers and warblers; Xiao Yao has contributed the rosefinches and Yuhinas with Gao Zhi; Gao Chang completed many gap species in several families; Lan Jian Jun contributed many water-birds and shorebirds whilst Annie MacKinnon added new woodpeckers, bulbuls and tits.

Field / Identification Guide
By: John MacKinnon(Author), Karen Phillipps(Illustrator), Yang Xiao Nong(Illustrator), Liu Li Hua(Illustrator), Xiao Yao(Illustrator), Gao Zhi(Illustrator), Gao Chang(Illustrator), Lan Jian Jun(Illustrator), Annie MacKinnon(Illustrator), Lu Hefen(Contributor), Yifan Li(Contributor), Hu Yun Biao(Contributor)
513 pages, 164 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps
Media reviews

Review of the first edition:

"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

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