Birds of Central Asia Field Guide

Birds of Central Asia

Birds of Central Asia

We prefer it when we can use a field guide that deals with the birds of a specific country. Given how well-visited the country of Kazakhstan is by birders it is a little surprising that this bird-rich country does not have its own field guide. However, in the absence of this what is required is a high-quality regional guide; that is exactly what the Birds of Central Asia is.

This book contains all the species likely to be seen on our tours to countries in this region and is compact enough to be carried in a large pocket, making it a real field guide. Although the taxonomy of the birds of this region has moved on a little, this is currently the most up-to-date field guide on the market for the countries it deals with.

Birds of Central Asia is the field guide we use on our Kazakhstan and Kysrgyzstan birding tours:

Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan Birding Tour

This popular birding tour is more enjoyable when using the Birds of Central Asia field guide as pre-trip reading and an identification/recording aid.

Range Maps

We will always favour field guides that contain range maps over those that do not. Even though there are obvious limitations to the accuracy of maps that cover such a large region the maps presented in this book are helpful. Due to the fact that these range maps cover a massive geographic area users should remember that indications of where a species occurs are just a guide and not written in stone; this applies particularly to a region that still contains a lot to be discovered. The range maps appear alongside the species text accounts, which is optimal, and opposite the illustrations for easy reference. A useful addition is that for some very distinct subspecies that are potential splits, there are separate range maps.


The quality of the illustrations here are largely very good, capturing species in mostly typical poses and the “character” of the birds in a consistent style. Despite the compact size of the book most plates display birds at a good size and well-spaced. A notable exception to this are the raptors. It seems almost traditional in many field guides that raptors get crammed into the pages at a size that is frequently innappropriate and also in a baffling random series of angles. Unfortunately this guide is no exception. Overall the illustrations are great and we consider the raptors section to be the only one with major failings.

Species Accounts

The species accounts are concise but useful, focussing on describing key identification features in comparison to other species in many cases. Unfortunately, the text does nothing to expand upon the geographic range of each species. This is a shame as other field guides in this series use a simple code for indicating which countries within the region they occur in.

What is useful, though, is the inclusion of a short section concerning in which habitat each species occurs and in many cases there is an indication of whether a bird is common or rare. Unfortunately alternative names do not appear anywhere in the book.

Call descriptions are included in the species accounts but generally refrain from rambling on for excessive lines of text and throughout the accounts certain important sections are printed in bold to highlight them which is helpful. With so much informtaion packed into a book that can be carried easily into the field it might not be a surprise that the size of the text can be a little challenging; reading glasses will be a useful tool for many.

Other Features

Birds of Central Asia contains one of the most concise and clear indexes that we have seen in a field guide with good spacing and a large enough font to make it easy to read. Groups such as “Sparrow” are printed in bold while specific names are printed in normal weight in a column that follows.

A short introduction outlines the way the book works and deals with the habitats of the region illustrated. Some beautiful photographs appear here although it could be more expansive in covering subjects like conservation issues.

There are three interesting apendices that deal with doubtful and undocumented species that have been claimed for the region, notes on moult of raptors and a section on the identification of gulls, something that is always a challenge.


We recommend that everyone participating in our Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan birding trips have a copy of this field guide to refer to. Our guides will use this field guide when leading our Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan birding tours. The checklist that we issue will be based on IOC taxonomy with reference to the taxonomy used within this publication.