Birders can memorize hundreds of details and still not be able to identify birds if they don’t really understand what’s in front of them. Today birders have access to almost too much information, and their attempts to identify birds can be drowned out by excess detail. The all-new Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding takes a different approach, clarifying the basics and providing a framework for learning about each group. Overall principles of identification are explained in clear language, and ten chapters on specific groups of birds show how these principles can be applied in practice. Anyone with a keen interest in identifying birds will find that this book makes the learning process more effective and enjoyable, and that truly understanding what we see and hear can make birding more fun.
One might wonder whether Kaufman’s new volume is simply a reprint or an expanded edition of his 1999 book, The Peterson Field Guide to Advanced Birding; Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them. It is most certainly not the former, nor is it very much the latter. It is, rather, the next step in Kaufman’s process of going ever deeper into the very heart of birding. Kaufman has made perhaps the most positive steps in decades to lead birding away from its sometimes off-putting (especially for beginners) emphasis on memorizing vast catalogs of field marks and other minutiae, and toward a more holistic method by which identification is learned through larger concepts and ideas.
Some beginners may believe that they are not ready for an “advanced” guide, or that they may not yet be able to comprehend all of what Kaufman explains in this book, but such thoughts should not dissuade readers from purchasing Advanced Birding. Yes, some of the latter half of the book may seem a bit overwhelming to readers who are fairly new to bird watching; however the opening chapters are accessible to, and entirely appropriate for, bird watchers at all levels of experience. Read as much of it as you deem appropriate to your current level of interest, and then come back to it later, once what you read has sunk in and you have felt your field birding experiences enriched thereby.—John E. Riutta