Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Best Field Guides for Birds and Birding



1.  The Sibley Guide to Birds :

  • Pros:  Extremely detailed and accurate illustrations of every regularly occurring bird in North America.  More plumages of each species shown than any other general field guide.  All species shown in flight and accurate range maps.   
  • Cons:  It's large/heavy size makes it difficult to carry into the field.  There is no general information about each species like the other field guides.  Doesn't show many of the rare birds that have occurred in North America.

  • Pros:  Accurate illustrations of all species that have occurred in North America.  Well written descriptions of each bird.  Easy-to-use flip tabs to guide you to the group of birds you are looking for.  In-flight comparison pages for hawks, shorebirds, and waterfowl.  Small size makes it easy to carry into the field.  
  • Cons:  Limited amount of plumages shown for each species.  Plumages shown not as accurate to real life situations as the Sibley Guide to Birds.

  • Pros:  Uses photos instead of illustrations (a positive, if that's what you prefer).  Well written descriptions of each bird.  Good pointers on what field marks to look for when viewing a bird.  Covers all regularly occurring species in North America.
  • Cons:  Limited amount of plumages shown for each species.  Doesn't cover all of the vagrants that the National Geographic guide covers.  

  • Pros:  Uses photos instead of illustrations (a positive, if that's what you prefer).  More extensive use of photos shows birds in a range of positions and plumages.  
  • Cons:  Only covers eastern North America.  Very busy plates for each species make it difficult to understand differences in plumage.  Difficult to use when identifying birds in the field, due to the busy plates.

  • Pros:  Good pointers on what field marks to look for on each species.  Covers all the regularly occurring birds of North America.  Includes a checklist to keep your life list.  
  • Cons:  Illustrations not always the most accurate of the field guides.  Limited amount of plumages shown for each species.  Doesn't show most of the vagrants to North America.  

The more of these field guides that you use the more you will learn about identifying birds.  Each guide has different information that might better strike a cord with you!

2 comments:

Emily Crow said...

My favorite field guide at the moment is the Stokes'. I really like the Crossley, too, though I tend to use it for study of hoped-for species before I go out, and then take the Stokes' with me in my car. Both are thick volumes and not easy to carry too far, alas. I'm still looking for a great field guide that I can stuff in my pocket!

Eric Ripma said...

Emily, thanks for the comment! I had the Stokes' field guide coming in at a close 6th. It is a nice field guide for those that like photos in their guides. I just don't personally prefer it over the other five.