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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review #9

#9. National Geographic "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" 5th edition ("Nat Geo")


The Ups
This guide is a real classic field guide. Everybody has got it. It currently has more species than any other North American guide and it contains all birds species recorded North of Mexico before 2006 (almost all at least, it lacks such common birds as Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Hooded Warbler!). It is arranged in the classic guide format with text and range maps on the left and paintings on the right (I was just kidding when I said that they were lacking Hooded Warbler, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Red-bellied Woodpecker!). The only unusual thing that stands out on this guide is the clever addition of a set of thumb tabs, making much quicker to flip to one of the seven large most challenging families. Surprisingly the finch family has its very own thumb tab. I have never thought of the finch family as either particularly large or particularly hard.

Every species has a description and a detailed range map. Descriptions generally mention both the songs and/or calls especially in the songbird section. Both the English and Scientific names are given along with exact measurements of their length, given in both inches and centimeters (plus before the Alcid family the wing lengths are often given). Before every family is a short family introduction mentioning the number of birds in the family and the number of species in North America. In the back of the book are placed vagrants (recorded less than three times in America, every species has a detailed description and an illustration) and extinct species. One of the greatest works of this guide is the intro, which consists of thirteen pages mentioning every thing from subspecies to lateral crown stripes.

Each species is illustrated in full color paintings showing almost showing (when necessary) males, females, young birds and when existing, subspecies! Birds are shown perched and very often in flight. The greatest all round work of this guide though is the flight pages which can show as many as thirty birds per spread. In total there are fourteen of these pages, four for shorebirds as well as ducks and female hawks and then there two pages for immature gulls. These are amazingly useful for IDing birds in flight. Although Peterson thought up this clever idea first Nat Geo has brought it to a whole other level by getting rid of the text and replacing them with more paintings for the maximum comparisons. There are some stunning illustrations in this guide which was illustrated by a ton of well known artists.

The Downs
Because of the aforementioned mass of contributing artists there is a sharp contrast in art styles which I find slightly annoying and very distracting. I personally prefer when all the art is of the same quality and style, which in this guide it is neither. Page 391, for example, a lovely warbler filled page contrasts with some less stunning illustrations of warblers on page 389. I don't mean to offend anyones skill and these illustrations are WAY beyond my unimpressive artistic skills.

The only other problem I have with this book is the binding which seems to be quite weak. My back cover has completely fallen off and the front cover is about to go.

Put all the stuff mentioned above together and you come out with a great book and one that I would recommend to anyone.

Sorry I forgot to add a photo quiz to the last post. The answer to the last quiz is a male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER.

Here is your next quiz!
This photo was taken at RISD Beach on the fourth of October, 2011. Good Luck!

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