||Birding Field Guides
A good field guide to birds will help you
with identification, but not
all guides are
created equally. Here are some
tips for choosing
a guide for North American birds:
- Some books cover the entire continent, others
specialize either in eastern or western birds
(the Mississippi River is the traditional
dividing line). If all your birding is local
and your are not near the Mississippi River,
you can pick up a book covering your side
of the river.
- Books with paintings are normally better
than those with photographs.
- Look for a comprehensive display of alternate
plumages (plumages within a species can vary
by sex, age and/or season of the year).
- Look for range maps that are easy to interpret.
National Geographic's and David Sibley's field guides are the best (see below) --
you can't go wrong with either, and many
serious birders use both. Sometimes NatGeo
has better illustrations, sometimes Sibley.
Sibley is noted for a thorough display of
juvenile and alternative plumages. NatGeo
tends to have more extensive commentary on
each species, but Sibley often has unique
insights. Sibley can be purchased either
as a single book (which some birders find
too big to carry) or as two separately-sold
compact volumes, one for birds east of the
Mississippi and one for those west. NatGeo
lies between these size extremes and is quite
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