If your birding field guide still lists Rufous-sided Towhee and Solitary
Vireo, you may be ready for a new one. The latest competitor in never-ending blizzard of American bird guides is National Geographic Field
Guide to the Birds of Western North America.
First, this book is about fifty pages thinner than the national edition
of the National Geographic field guide. It is same size otherwise.
Fits nicely into pocket or small pouch.
The illustrations meet the fine, high standards of the earlier National
Geos. For Dark-eyes Junco there are 11 drawings, including a juvenile.
There are five Fox Sparrow drawings, a half-dozen of the Song Sparrow
complex. The Red-tailed Hawk is figured eight times. The gender symbols
can be quickly seen without eyeglasses in the field. Whenever it’s
helpful, there’s a juvenile illustrated. You don’t want to be on Mount
Ashland in July with a field guide that fails to show you a juvenile
Lazuli Bunting. That happened to me when I carried only The Sibley
Field Guide of Birds of Western North America. It also lacks a picture
of the juvenile Junco, abundant here in summer. I love Sibley’s work and
his overall Sibley Guide to Birds is still the ultimate field reference
to carry in your car. The slimmed down field version fails the summer
birder with its shortage of juvenile birds.
The list price of the new regionalized Natl. Geo. is $19.95.
Some of field guides now in print:
All the Birds of North America. By Jack Griggs. HarperCollins. New
York. Easy to use field guide suited for beginners and backyard
Audubon Handbook: Western Birds. By John Farrand. McGrawHill. New
York. Only if you want a complete collection of all titles.
Golden Field Guides Birds of North America. St. Martin’s Press. New
York. Updated form of an old callis that is still the only field guide
to show vocalization sonograms. This book once helped me recognize
Goshawk when I was still unfamiliar with the bird. Text mentions the
fluffy white under tail coverts that are often obvious in the field.
Kaufman Field Guide to Birds lof North America. Kenn Kaufman. Houghton
Mifflin. Boston. Great range maps though all guides now have their
version. Uses photos now artwork which can actually be a drawback. No
photo captures all elements of the bird. Wisely uses Peterson’s
innovation, a line pointing to major field marks. Great format for
carrying in the field.
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America.
Edited by Jon Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer. National Geographic.
Washington. A team of eighteen artists contributed to this field guide
which is as good as it gets right now.
National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America. By
Edward Brinkley. Sterling Publiching, New York. Sharp range maps.
Like most field guides it is far behind the actual spreads of the
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Photos, not illustration of birds. NWisely
breaks format to show eight photos of Juncos in various plumages, inc.
one juvie. Too think for easy field carrying.
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. Roger Tory Peterson. Houghton Mifflin. Boston. Contains all North
American birds. Great compilation of Peterson’s art and descriptions.
Book is too heavy and large for pocket though it could go into a
The Sibley Guide to Birds. David Allen Sibley. Knopf. New York.
Sponsored by National Audubon Society. The finest collection of
contemporary bird art and well-honed descriptions of birds including
many field marks. Too large for carrying in the field except as
reference in the car or van.
Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. By Ted Floyd.
Collins. New York. Collins has the best field guide for European
birds, but this doesn’t qualify on this side of the pond. Too large for
comfortable field use. Uses photos, not drawings. Much of the text is
too small to read easily without eyeglasses if you are over 50 years
old. Doesn’t clearly differentiate genders at a glance. Does great job
of calling out the field marks that are important, using text. A fine
Stokes Field Guide to the Birds Western Region. By Donald and Lillian
Stokes. Little, Brown. Part of the Stokes’ bird book brand.
Western Birds. Peterson Field Guide Series. By Roger Tory Peterson.
Houghton Mifflin. Boston. A classic and still a good book for
beginners. Perfect size for field guide.