Monday, June 25, 2007

"A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Indonesia" by Strange. M. (2001)

Periplus, Singapore, 416 pp. ISBN 962-593-402-2.

At last, the Indonesian birds can be compiled in one field guide gathering field guides on the Birds of Sumatra. Java, Bali and Kalimantan, Birds of Wallacea and Birds of New Guinea. This is another book dedicated to the geographical region. It may also be used as a complement to Birding Indonesia edited by Paul Jepson and Rosie Ounsted and produced by the same publisher in 1997. Despite its size and weight, it is suitable for being carried away to the field.

Morten Strange has had close association with Indonesia over 20 years. He travelled all over the country to obtain the photographs of many bird species that had never been photographed especially those distributed only in Nusa Tenggara and Irian Jaya/West Irian. He showed his master in photography by illustrating most of the species taken by him though he was assisted by other 35 photographers to complete the book. The author has written the Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore (1993) and the Photographic Guide to the Birds of South East Asia including Phillippines and Borneo (2000).

The book basically contains three main sections: introduction, how to use this book and systematic section. This introduction is very comprehensive and detailed. Terminology and names used in the book are clearly explained. However there is an inconsistency in the explanation of some terminology, e.g. the term of Sunda in the "How to use this Book" section is different from the Glossary. One spelling mistake of the scientific name of the Blue Nuthatch, should be Sitta azurea not Sitta azyea.

It provides some tips on birding techniques, photographing birds, documentation, information on habitats, birding time, interesting places for birding and conservation concerns. The section how to use this book explains the area covered, the nomenclature, taxonomy and sequence applied including some important references and guidance for the systematic section. The systematics section illustrates the species with coloured photograph, short description, information on voice and habitats as well as a map of distribution. For some dimorphic species, photographs of both sexes are shown.

There are 1534 bird species recorded in Indonesian region. This book presents 686 species or less 50% of total species. Each species is well described with brief information on voice and sufficient behaviour notes for field observation. Since the book is heavily relied on coloured photographs for species identification, we were a bit disappointed with their uneven quality. Some photographs (such as on pages 68, 70, 77, 145, 175, 176, 191, 283, 289, 296, 305, 322, 359 and 375) have poor quality and are less detailed, they could not be used properly for identification as the book intended to be.

Although it was mentioned that most photographs were taken on location in Indonesia or South East Asia, the photograph of Grey teal Anas gibberifrons was taken in Australian region because it is less accurate. The Indonesian (Sunda) grey teal has a prominent forehead which is distinctive from the Australian Grey Teal.

The book covers 87 out of 93 families and 130 out of 381 endemic species.

The inclusion of map of distribution is very useful. Because Indonesian region has the highest number of endemic species, the map really helps to find specific locations for interesting species. We were a bit surprised when seeing the map of the Brahminy Kite (Haliastar indus). The author eliminates the presence of the species on Java island. Actually, last year we found an active nest of this species with two chicks in the mangrove of North Coast of Banten.

After all, we recommend the book to be used by beginners or professional bird watchers for observing the Indonesian birds. The concise text provides vital information that will ensure identification of some species in one of the world's most diverse avifauna regions. We appreciate all efforts of the author to produce such comprehensive photographs of the birds such as the Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot (Micropsitta brnijnii), the Wallace's Hanging-parrot (Loriculus flosculus) and the Moluccan Hanging-parrot (L. amabilis).

Dewi M. Prawiradilaga and Darjono
Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense.
Research Centre for Biology-LIPI
Jalan Raya Bogor Km 46, Cibinong 16911, Indonesia

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 381-382 on 31 Dec 2001.

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