Here’s a quick update to a previous blog post on field guides to Japanese birds. Along with the two books previously mentioned, is a new volume by Mark Brazil (who turns out to be a friend of a friend).
A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan and North-East Asia by Tadao Shimba. Colour photography throughout , covers over 600 species with a brief description of each bird including its geographic range. The photographs range in quality but still give you a good idea of what the birds look like.
One problem I noticed is that the book has the English and scientific names of the bird, but not the common Japanese name. If you buy this book and plan to use it while in Japan (which would be most people I imagine) having the Japanese name would allow you to ask locals what a bird was or confirm your guess.
Until the photographic guide came out the standard book (in English) of Japanese birds was A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan by the Wild Bird Society of Japan. I managed to find a copy in a box of junk, which was fantastic as they were last printed in 1985 and they usually sell for upwards of 100 dollars.
The field guide is excellent with great drawings of adults and immature birds along with summer and winter plumage. There are the English, scientific and Japanese names for each species also. (Impress you Japanese friends with your knowledge of obscure Japanese bird names.)
The latest book on the market is Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia (Princeton Field Guides). Based on the fact that I have the Princeton Field Guides – Birds of Peru which is excellent, and that Japan based Mark Brazil is an extremely knowledgable ornithologist I expect it to be superb. Just ordered a copy as an early Christmas present to myself 🙂