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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 birders.

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 backpack.

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 reference.

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.

TOWHEE.NET:  Harry Fuller, 820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, OR 97128