The Birds of Borneo
Second edition, Susan Myers
This is very much the book I had wanted the 2009 (New Holland) First Edition to have been. The maps, though small, are detailed and nuanced. The species illustrations (extracted from the Helm archive mostly) show better the relative on-the-page sizes of the species, are better arranged, and illustrate Bornean subspecies, rather than, say, the nominate which occurs elsewhere. The Second Edition is neater, more compact and softback rather than hardback, so more easily fits into a pocket.
The 36 pages of introductory material are succinct, up-to-date and invaluable, as can be inferred from the Acknowledgements. The small section on Taxonomy gives no clue as to which authority is followed, but in the Endemics section IOC 5.3 is mentioned, and so only a small leap of logic is needed.
When I first went to Borneo, Bertram Smythies’ 'The Birds of Borneo' 3rd edition and the newly-published 'Birds of South-East Asia' by Ben King were our sole ID sources. Although this new Helm Guide is what we would have craved if we could see into the future, there is much in these older volumes that has stood the test of time!
Since the 1980s, the whirl of taxonomic musical chairs has resulted in many changes to scientific names, some newly-minted but most resurrected from those coined by early researchers, but deemed subsequently as debased, until needed, of course.
Published: Feb 2016
Helm Field Guides
Paperback: Pages: 336
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Species splits require new English names, but despite the mental smokescreen such changes invoke, I compared several dozen records from more than three decades ago with the new maps and texts and found good correlation, suggesting that habitat changes in Brunei have not had the major effect on bird distributions that palm oil plantations elsewhere on the island, although some of the maps appear to have registered these changes in Kalimantan.
The succinct texts contain essential aspects of each species’ ID, habitat distribution and status.
If you go to Borneo, keep this book close to you in your waking hours. You won’t regret it.
16 March 2016
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