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Friday, November 4, 2011

Review #5

The Sibley Field Guide To Birds of Eastern North America

The Runup
By far my favorite element of this great guide is the voice description given for each bird. These voice descriptions include a hoard of songs, calls and quacks. Even the seabirds calls are given even if these say no more than "Generally silent at sea". No other field guide I, at the present moment, am aware of gives calls for EVERY bird as this book does.

Sibley as does a awesome job arranging this book. Each page has almost always two species described and illustrated on it. Right now I am studying page 144; this page displays Northern Jacana and American Oystercatcher. The two species are separated by a line (the oystercatcher being on the top of the page, the Jacana on the bottom). Each species is given four paintings; a painting of the juvenile and the adult perched and a painting of the species flying (generally at least two birds of one species are shown in flight). Every species, except for Bicknell's Thrush and some rarities, are shown in flight! The field marks are pointed out, and described.

The gouache paintings are stunning works. None of the birds shown are disproportioned (except for a few owls) as a number of other bird guide paintings are. The descriptions are very nice. They all give the general status, the English and scientific names, the habits and habitats, the size, wingspan, weight and plumage description, the voice (as already mentioned) and the even species favorite football team! Very few field guides give this much information (especially sport-wise).

If the species has an easily recognizable subspecies it will be shown below the species. The subspecies will be given two or more paintings plus a short description.

The range maps are very, very detailed. They depict all of North America even though this guide focuses only on half of the continent. They show where the birds have occurred out of range, where they breed and winter, where they are year round residents and their migration pattern.

In the beginning of the book Sibley discuses birding and explains plumages, variations, conservation and so forth. This a very informative and interesting set of pages. After this introduction comes a group of illustrated spreads depicting Sparrows, Gulls, Sandpipers and a Gadwall. All these birds are shown in black and white, pointing out the different feather types such as the tertials and the alula. These few pages are by far the best and most useful you'll find in any North American guide.

This has a turtleback binding, my favorite type of binding for a field guide because it seems very sturdy and is comfortable in the hand.

The Rundown
This field guide is pretty chunky making it harder to carry out in the field than some books. The subspecies scientific names are not mentioned. Some of the paintings (such as the Brown Thrasher) are too bright.

If anyone ever asked me to point out my favorite field guide to North American birds there is no doubt in my smallish mind that I would answer abruptly "The Sibley".

Good job to anyone who spotted and ID'd the Song and Field Sparrow in the last photo quiz.
Here's the next quiz!
This photo was taken at Blackstone Park in Providence on the 7th of October 2011.
Good Luck!

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