Birds of Mongolia Field Guide
Birds of Mongolia Field Guide
For some time Mongolia has been growing as a birding destination but until 2019 birders have been required to struggle along with a combination of sub-standard publications or books that do not cover the country in sufficient detail. With the Birds of Mongolia, by Gombobaatar Sundev and Christopher Leahy, there is now a natural choice of field guide when heading to this amazing country. A long overdue Helm/Princeton publication.
As a book specifically dealing with Mongolia it contains all the species we are likely to see on this tour. Fortunately, it is also small enough not to take up too much space when packing for this adventure. This is a true field guide rather than an illustrated checklist; a good addition to a birder’s library.
Birds of Mongolia is the field guide that we will be using on our birding tours to Mongolia:
Enjoyment of this exciting tour will be far greater if participants use a copy of this Birds of Mongolia field guide.
Range maps are one of the most useful ways in narrowing down the list of possibilities when trying to identify birds in the field. Some field guides neglect this important feature but Birds of Mongolia contains useful, colour-coded range maps alongside the species accounts. These maps appear on the opposite page to the corresponding plates for quick reference. This book was a long time in preparation, with publication postponed several times. One can only assume that it was because these range maps took a long time to finalize. While they are small in size the maps certainly serve their pupose sufficiently. However, one should always remember that range maps are a guide rather than the final word on distribution. It is quite likely that further birding tours to Mongolia will result in range extensions to these maps.
As with most modern field guides there are colour illustrations for all species recorded in Mongolia up to the date of publication. There is also a small section for illustrations of recent additions to the Mongolian list along with some species that may occur in the future. The illustrations are of high quality and the standard according to those used in Helm publications. Indeed, many of these illustrations adorn the pages of other field guides. While a number of different artists contributed to this book, there is not too much difference in styles.
Plates generally have an uncluttered appearance with illustrations large enough for a good level of detail to be seen. The plates are clean and not confusing to the eye when scanning through them making it easy to identify what birders see in the field. The only criticism we have is that the plates do not point out key identification features with small arrows which can be a helpful feature. Overall the illustrations are very good and in keeping from what we expect from this publisher.
The species accounts are rather standard fare for a field guide with brief passages giving a description of plumages, call and habitat. It is nice to see that a brief note on whether a bird is locally common, rare or widespread is a feature and the species accounts appear alongside the range maps and plates. The call descriptions are kept brief in order not to confuse or waste space and only occur where useful.
Probably the most innovative feature of these species accounts is that passages of text that highlight key identification features appear in bold so that they stand out. Overall these species accounts are helpful without being especially illuminating but they are certainly not packed full of useless information at the expense of more useful knowledge. These species accounts are compact, to the point and do aid identification of many birds.
This guide begins with a nice introduction which includes information on the different ecological zones and habitats within the country. Beautiful photographs illustrate each of these zones/habitats and encapture the atmosphere of the Mongolian landscape well. There is no pictorial index although there is a list of contents pointing the user to various groups of birds. There is also a short section detailing species of conservation interest and the issues that are a problem to birds in Mongolia. Additionally, there are also sections on Mongolia’s best bird watching locations and how to use the book. It is pleasing to see that the index is easy to use and logical unlike some other bewildering guides. Those who want to learn more about Mongolian birds will be happy to see a list of useful references. These references are an interesting point for those who enjoy doing more than just tick birds off of a list.
We highly recommend that all participants on our trips to Mongolia obtain a copy of this field guide. This guide is the most compact and up-to-date book for the birds of this fantastic country. Make sure you order one in time for delivery before the tour starts! See you in Mongolia.