Birds of Japan by Mark Brazil | Christopher Helm | 2018 | Paperback | 416 Pages | 189 plates with colour illustrations; colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781472913869


The Publisher’s View: 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

The Author: Mark Brazil is an experienced field ornithologist who has had several previous books published including A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan, The Birds of Japan (Helm) and The Whooper Swan (Poyser).

Fatbirder View: I have little to add to the publishers’ puff – this, being the latest and a most comprehensive guide to Japan’s avifauna it is, as they say, an ‘essential field guide to the region’ for the travelling birder. That is not to say it’s perfect. Like the UK Japan’s island position off the Asian coast and its trans-migratory latitude means that a lot can turn up there. But its hard to make a case for the inclusion of so many vagrants as the volume is pretty hefty even in paperback. For me the biggest distraction are the contrasting styles, and scales of the plates because so many previous works have been used as sources from a wide variety of artists. I’m not faulting the artists themselves as almost all the illustrations are excellent but there is no consistency and it does jar on the eye. One can hardly blame the publisher for taking that route, as artwork is expensive and getting the maximum mileage makes sense, but it means there can be no consistency on the scale used for the portraits. So, you end up with great big warblers and tiny seabirds and that is confusing. Size is indicated in the text but text is always secondary in a fieldguide.That the author is an expert birder can hardly be in doubt and I know him to be an excellent photographer too so, had there been room some of his pictures of, say, the endemics, would have been good to include.

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