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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review #6

#6 Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America

Born 1908 Roger Tory Peterson lived his life as a super birder and he created his first guide in 1934. A Field Guide to the Birds (east of the Rockies) was an instant success; the 2,000 copies sold out in the first 2 weeks. The reason his guide was so popular was probably due to the fact that no one had ever created anything like what Roger created. It was the worlds first field guide!!! That guide was the foundation of all modern field guides. Peterson died in 1987 but his legacy and his books live on.

The newest edition to his classic guide was printed in 2008, of course Peterson didn't update his guide personally he being long past. No, this guide was updated by a number of famed birders, adding new range maps, 40 new paintings by Michael DiGiorgio, new text and digitally updated paintings by Peterson. As well as making new editions to the eastern and western guides they came out with a new one to all the birds of North America, this is the one I have.

The Great
This guide is arranged in the classic order with paintings on right, text and some extremely detailed maps on the left. One of my favorite things about this guide are the status's which are given next to the English and scientific names above the body of the text blocks. The status tells how common each species is in North America, generally it just says "Fairly common" or "Uncommon" etc, etc.

Next to the status is a big "M" and then a number. The "M" stands for map and the number matches up to the number on the map. Now you may be wondering why the maps would need a number if they were right next to the text. The answer is simple, there are in fact two maps for each species (excluding vagrants of course). One map I have already noted as being next to the text (in the front of the book), the other maps are placed in the back. Along with being much larger these maps also have notes on the likelyhood of vagrancy to other parts of the country and notes on migration among other range related things. These pages are nicely arranged and very educational to flip through.

There are quite a few flight pages and these pages, similar to the Nat Geo guide, show the birds on the right hand page and on the left descriptions of their different wing plumages.

Sizes of the birds are given under the name. Descriptions are very informative discussing habitat, voice (discounting Boobies, Tropicbirds, Cormorants and pelagic species which we are all unlikely to hear) and similar species. This guide contains many rarities and vagrants as well as introduced species.

Before every family of birds are a few lines discribing the family. Here is what is said about the corvids: "Large perching birds with strong, longish bill, nostrils covered by forward-pointing bristles. Crows and ravens are very large and black. Jays are often colorful (usually blue). Magpies are black and white, with long tail. Sexes alike. Most immatures resemble adults. FOOD: Almost anything edible. RANGE: Worldwide except s. S. America, some islands, Antarctica" Yes, I know isn't a masterpiece, but it is interesting and useful. I would never have been able to tell you that corvids don't live in southern South America before reading that.

This guide has a very nice illustrated introduction on IDing birds, something that would be very useful for any beginning birder. Before the introduction on page number one is a "ONE PAGE INDEX" listing bird families in alphabetical order from Albatrosses to Yellowthroats.

In the back of the book, squeezed tightly between the range maps and the index, is a "Life List" that follows the ABA checklist. This list contains more species than the book (not surprisingly). The book does not mention Xantus's Hummingbird due to its rareness in the ABA area but the Life List lists this bird and many other species which the book lacks.

The very last few pages are taken up with one of my favorite sections of the whole book. These pages are filled with silhouettes. There are three separate spreads. One spread depicts a black and white shore filled with water loving species, the second shows a mixed flock of birds in flight (on this spread 26 species are shown flying) and on the last spread is a colorless painting of a country roadside showing 32 different species. These are fun pages to quiz yourself on by covering up the list of species shown on the page.

The OK
The gulls are separated into two sections; adults and immatures, this may require you to flip around a bit more, before finding the bird you are looking for.

I can't say I am a huge fan of the paintings, I have seen nicer. These paintings, while not being completely stunning (in general), are very useful for tough IDs. All the field marks are pointed out with black arrows, and many of the birds are shown in flight. Generally species are shown in a few different plumages.

The bottom edge of each page is colored in order to help the reader find the birds with more speed. For example all the shorebirds are color tabbed olive green. To me this doesn't seem like it would be all that useful.

The Awful
My only real problem with this guide is that its very big. It would be hard to carry a book like this out into the field with you unless you want bring a backpack.

This guide I would recommend to any birder though I think it would be better for a beginning birder to start out with a smaller guide.

Good job to anyone who ID the Eastern Phoebe in the last quiz.
Heres your next photo quiz!

This photo was taken in Barrington, RI on the 30th of September.

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