Basics: hardcover, 1,600 good but sometimes small color illustrations of all 631 species; paragraph covers identification, behavior, voice, range, and breeding for each bird; 129 species receive only a single illustration; 2-colored range map given for each bird
This is the first book to focus on only the birds of the island of Borneo and to illustrate all its species. Borneo, divided into three separate countries, has a list of 631 species, which includes 50 endemics.
The 1,600+ illustrations are good and should be adequate to identify most of the species, except perhaps for some of the babblers, the plainer flycatchers, and the jungle-flycatchers. Most of the birds have multiple illustrations that typically focus on the gender variations. Some juvenile plumages are also included. Compared to most other field guides, this book has fewer poses shown for the birds. As an example, at least 129 species have only a single illustration. As for the pose, most of the birds are shown in a standard perching position. Relatively few of the birds are shown in flight or with an open-wing or tail to reveal finer details. The birds with the most illustrations (2-6) are the raptors, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. Although this is nice, there are other better, specialized guides that already focus on these family groups. In contrast, Borneo has many unique birds that are illustrated in very few other books. This book was a good chance to better show these birds. Examples include the Bornean Stubtail or the Chestnut-crowned Yuhina which are shown with only one illustration each. It would have been nice to give extra attention to the island and regional endemics.
The text consists of a brief, concise paragraph with at least 50% dedicated to identification and similar species. The description does a good job of pointing out both the adult and juvenile plumages; and, often differences between the male and female plumages. Each bird also receives a short description of its voice. This description may be as simple as "a soft twittering" for the Asian House-Martin or more lengthy for the Whitehead's Spiderhunter that reads "very distinctive; call is a wheezy wee-chit (4kHz); also a complex series of nasal but wheezy twitters and tirlls with rich harmonics wit-wit-wit-wt'wt'wt'weechee...(3-8 kHz)".
The remainder of the paragraph provides brief, informative notes on the bird's habitat, behavior, range and status, Borneo status, and breeding.
The range maps, supplied for each bird, use three different colors. These represent resident, non-breeding visitor, and passage migrant. To help provide more detail, the borders of the three countries as well as the states of Indonesia are shown on the island.
Although a true field, the book may not be completely welcome in the field due to its slightly enlarged size that will require a larger than normal pocket. The layout used to display the birds is slightly different - but effective. Instead of the typical text-on-the-left-page across from the plates-on-the-right-page format, the bird's illustration is right next to its text and range map. This format allows 2-3 species to be shown and discussed on each page. A benefit of this layout is it prevents any confusion of matching the bird with its proper text and map; however, the downside is the reduction in the size of the illustrations. At times, the birds are a bit small, such as the Little Green-Pigeon. This image is small enough to be nearly hidden by the tip of my index finger. I'm not quite sure why some of these birds were illustrated so small since there is plenty of blank space around them. Many of the birds could be nearly doubled in size and still fit nicely onto the page.
Any serious birding done on Borneo will require this book. The only other alternative, which is a good one, is MacKinnon & Phillipp's book "A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali." The plates in this book are just a slight notch below the quality of Myers's book but they provide a greater number of illustrations. The text between the books is relatively the same in quantity and quality. -- (written by Soleglad at Avian Review / Avian Books, September 2009)
1) A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali by MacKinnon/Phillipps
2) The birds of Borneo by Smythies
3) Photographic Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Davison/Fook
4) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Mount Kinabalu, Borneoby Nakayasu
5) Birds of Mount Kinabalu, Borneoby Davison et al.
6) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asiaby Strange
7) Pocket Guide to the Birds of Borneoby Francis
8) Phillipps' Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Phillipps