Basics: 1999, hardcover, 648 pages, 69 color plates, 380 species, range maps
NOTE: This review is on only Volume 1 of this double-volume set. Amazon automatically and incorrectly ties this review to both volumes.
Covering the 380 non-passerine species on this peninsula shared by Thailand and Malaysia, this is a great reference for the region's birds. However, the format of this book will probably make it a great reference for only a smaller niche of people with a more scientific or academic focus on birds. This is not an identification guide. Generally speaking, it is a big, heavy library book used to research about a bird's natural history.
There are 69 color plates that illustrate most of the birds discussed in the book. And, these plates can be labeled as good - but not for strict identification purposes. With 8-22 illustrations per plate, these paintings display the species quite well. Finer detail is not incorporated to help separate similar species. However, with many of the birds illustrated with gender, seasonal, and age plumages, one could realistically use this book to identify most of the non-passerine birds encountered.
The meat of the book is its text. Nearly a full page is dedicated to each bird, along with a large range map. The same template of categories is used for each bird, which is not necessarily efficient, or even necessary. Many birds have several of these categories filled out as "No information." or "No data." It's important in science to note absent/negative information, but this did not really add to the book's knowledge value. The categories receiving the most attention of 1-2 paragraphs include global range, identification/description, status and population, ecology, and movements. The information provided is obviously well researched.
The range maps are different from most others used. Keeping in line with the text, they incorporate more detail, which is usually appreciated by me. However, these maps can appear too busy at times and one needs to pay closer attention to the outlines of the ranges, especially for birds with scattered pockets in their distribution. Only the outline of the range is given (i.e., it's not colored or shaded in), which can make it blend into the map itself along the coastline and amongst the many islands.
Who will use this book? The academic, field-research, data-focused ornithologist will certainly appreciate having this book on his shelf. For them, I recommend this book. The avid birder who visits this area only a couple of times in his life will probably not get nearly as much use out of it. This book is expensive. It reads with more of a science-dryness, it does not offer field identification quality and, there are several better, true field guides available for this region.
I've listed several related books below...
1) The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Passerines: Vol 2 by Wells et al.
2) A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore by Jeyarajasingam/Pearson
3) A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Davison/Fook
4) Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Strange
5) Birds of Thailand by Robson
6) A Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Lekagul/Round
7) Photographic Guide to Birds of Thailand by Webster
8) A Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia by Robson
9) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia by Strange