Taiwan Field Guide

Subject: Taiwan Field Guide
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 1995 20:23:15 -0400
Here is a book review taken from the Oriental Bird Club Bulletin no. 16,
November 92

Jean-Claude Simard, 
Hollywood Beach, Florida


A guide to the wild birds of Taiwan by Wu Sen-Hsiong and Yang Hsiouying, A
illustrated by Koji Taniguchi, 1991 Published by the Taiwan Wild Bird
Informnation Centre and the Wild Bird Soaety of Japan. 274 pp. 458 species
described with 1258 illustrations. ISBN: 957-9578-00-01 (sb).

Despite being available only in Chinese (an English language edition was
rumoured to be forthcoming, but may be several more years in the pipeline)
this book is an absolute must for visitors to Taiwan and in fact to anyone
interested in east Asian ornithology. It greatly supersedes everything
previously published on Taiwan's birds. The artwork, by the Japanese artist
Koji Taniguchi, is superior to that in A field guide to the birds of Japan
(WBSJ 1982) and, as it includes scientific and English bird names, and
excellent distribution maps, it is an invaluable field aid. I will make no
comment concerning the quality of the text! The fact that it has been
co-authored by Wu Sen-Hsiong leads me to believe, however, that it will have
been written with great care and attention and aimed at increasing public
awareness of the importance of birds amongst the public of Taiwan.

It will do nothing however, to ease confusion over the taxonomy of Taiwan's
birds as it seems not to follow consistently the accepted standards, nor the
most recent literature. The English names chosen will frustrate world
birders, and outdated taxonomy will lead another generation of Asian birders
astray. For example the migratory scops-owls are still considered Otus scops
(they are in fact Oriental Scops O. sunia), while those resident on Lanyu
Island are the regional endemic Ryukyu Scops O. elegans; the migratory
honey-buzzards are still considered Pernis apivorus, rather than the
generally accepted Oriental Honey-buzzard P. ptilorhyncus, and the
wren-babbler is still considered Pygmy despite Harrap (1989) Identification,
vocalizations and taxonomy of Pnoepyga wren-babblers. Forktail 5:61-70. But,
carping aside, as every author knows every book has its faults, and the
compactness of this excellently produced guide, its high quality
illustrations and maps (these are either Asia-wide following the WBSJ (1982)
outlines, or detailed of Taiwan itself making them very useful for endemic
and restricted range species) 4 more than offset its failings and make it
essential luggage for visiting birders.

Mark Brazil

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