Monday, August 25, 2008

Your Favorite Bird Field Guide?

All this week I will be posting about field guides and, in particular, about Roger Tory Peterson and the new Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. I was a part of the team of people who worked on the new Peterson. More on that tomorrow...

I've asked this question before, but with all the new field guides that have appeared on the birding scene in the past year, it bears repeating.

What is YOUR favorite field guide/guides? And why?

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At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Sibley fan. I like his art, and I like his depictions of birds in flight. I love finding out the wingspan, total length and even the weight of a bird I'm interested in. I like having east and west in one book, and having the maps on the same page.

Having said that, I love going to Kaufman to see photos of the bird, too, and to read what he has to say.

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Lynne said...

I can't seem to resist buying new ones by my favorite is my 5th Edition Peterson (Eastern). I like the pages of comparison drawings with simple arrows pointing out the key differentiating features. I heard about the podcasts included in the new Peterson. It sounds like they make great tools in learning more about birds so I'm sure I'll be buying that one too.

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Erik said...

I have a shelf full of field guides. The only one I'm missing is the Smithsonian.

I've been using National Geographic in the field for many years and the new 5th edition is really nice. It's easily my favorite. My only complaint is the size. I wish it were a bit smaller sized like the Kaufman.

I leave a large Sibley, the new Peterson, and Kaufman in the car as a reference. The first two are just too large to carry in the field and the Kaufman just doesn't do it for me as a field guide. I like it as reference.

I travel a fair bit on business and try to sneak in a little birding in the evenings. Since I end up all over the country I prefer a complete NA guide as opposed to a Eastern/Western edition. It can be a real bummer to be in Oregon only to find out I grabbed an Eastern edition by mistake.

Now if you wanted us to venture beyond NA, I'd have to say the Collins guide for Europe is the finest field guide I've ever seen. Outstanding art and brilliant text. To me that is the gold standard all other guides should be measured against.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Seabrooke said...

My very first guide, the one that introduced me to birding and carried me through those first honeymoon years, was a Peterson that I got for my birthday along with my first pair of binoculars, and it is as they say - you never forget your first love.

I do own a few other guides now, for cross-referencing purposes. However, the moment I saw the new Sibley on the front-of-the-store, new release display racks, I knew it was the bird guide for me. I like his depictions of the many subspecies and birds in flight, and the simple artwork makes picking out field marks easy. I got the first edition, with its too-red thrashers and sparrows that are now one of its endearing quirks, for Christmas that same year.

I've used my Sibley as a field guide, tossed in a backback, and it's been lovingly toted everywhere I've gone, from Arizona, California and British Columbia, and all places between there and home. These days the end flaps are dog-eared and the paper cover of the spine has long since torn off to expose the glue paper, but it still goes with me on big birding trips and remains within arm's reach when I'm home.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Eva said...

Like many other people that have commented before me, I too am a Sibley fan. I prefer drawings over photos, like the in-flight and perched shots and enjoy the multiple views of adult vs juvenile and male vs female differences. Plus it's the book all my friends use, so when we're out birding and I need to quickly look up something I know just where to find it.

With that said I look forward to seeing this new Peterson edition.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

I've used 4th Edition Peterson, 5th edition Nat Geo, the new Smithsonian guide, and the eastern and western Sibley guides in the field. Sibley has become my standard for the clarity of the illustrations and the standardizations of the depictions, which makes cross-species comparisons a snap. It also fits perfectly in a pocket on my field bag! I do really like the Nat Geo, and I use it as a desk reference a lot. I'm interested to see the new Peterson, since that was one of my first bird guides when I started birdwatching as a kid.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous JAred said...

I think the Sibley's is better while in the field as it is easy to read and gets to the meat of matters identification problems but his artwork is not really all that great. I prefer the more lively and colorful illustrations of the Nat Geo.

Jared in Denton Texas

At 8:49 PM, Anonymous KatDoc said...

Peterson, eastern, 4th edition. I love it because it was my first field guide, so I know it well. Every other field guide I own is always compared to that.

A close second - my Sibley (east) I like having multiple views and plumages, and especially the flying silhouettes. The order of birds is different than Peterson's, so I can't get the page I want as quickly, but I am getting used to it.

I'm with Erik on the Collins Guide for European birds. The art work is supremely awesome. While in Scotland, I actually backtracked to the "most remote bookshop in the UK," Akins Books in Inverkirkaig, for this book when a Scottish twitcher told me I had to have it.


At 9:13 PM, Anonymous OpposableChums said...

I just picked up the Collins at Birdfair; love at first sight. A standard-setter.

For The Colonies, I Like the Peterson in the field, the Sibley in the car.

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous littleorangeguy said...

As someone who is a relative newcomer to this and very much still a laerner, my Peterson 5th edition (East/Central) was initially about as much information as I could absorb. But then as I started to cotton on to things, the Sibley North American guide just blew my mind and really helped me figure things out that Peterson couldn't.

I could not choose between the two, because of where I am as a birder, and what each gives me.

At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Jayne said...

So far, I only have the Stokes and Sibley and so the Sibley wins hands down. Now, if I were to actually go out into the field... :c)

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still rather fond of my old audobon field guide. The one with the plastic type of cover and the pictures.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Patricia said...

Kaufman, for ease and photos but mainly for the succinct prose "snapshot" of the bird, fixing in the mind a characteristic package of habitat, behavior and field marks that rings in my ear in the field.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous rmharvey said...

When I need to consult a field guide in the field I need all the help I can get. Sibley generally gives me more help than the others so I have a shoulder bag to carry it. NG5 sits in the car, or if I am expecting ID problems goes in the bad with Sibley. And during warbler season the Dunn and Garret go in the bag with Sibley, just for those two pages of the underside of the tails.

In the old Peterson eastern guide I always valued the confusing fall warblers pages, and the ducks worked particularly well for me, but I don't use it today.

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous OpposableChums said...

I'd like to also point out Pete Dunne's "Field Guide Companion." It's not for carrying into the field; there are no pictures or drawings. But it answers a lot of questions from the field.

For example, I've always been VERY iffy on the difference between a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Pictures of bill size relative to head size were too inconclusive in the field, so these fairly common birds never made my list. Pete's descriptions answered the question.

It's a book very worth looking into.

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Mary said...

I guess I'm in the minority here. I purchased my first field guide two years ago and it's the one I look for first - it's small and PHOTOGRAPHIC. I like photos. Stokes - Eastern Region.

I have Sibley's Guide to birds - my second source.

At 2:02 AM, Anonymous Mary C said...

And this Mary is another Stokes fan, western region. I have several other field guides, but I seem to keep going back to my Stokes guide. But now I'm thinking about purchasing the new Peterson guide.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Susan Gets Native said...

When I'm in Ohio (which is most of the time), I turn to my trust McCormac...which is now in 3 pieces because the girls always want to look through it. (that was also my first guide ever) When I am outside of Ohio, it's Stokes.
My Sibley is too darn big to carry in the field, but I have dashed home after a walk to double check plumages. It rocks with raptors in flight.

At 2:10 AM, Anonymous elizabird said...

My favorite field guide--Jeff Gordon
:-) I never have to carry him or look at the index.


At 7:10 AM, Anonymous behindthebins said...

I am a sucker and buy most of the new field guides when they come out. I have shelves of them that I use for reference or when I'm traveling abroad, but the one I USE most in the field is Peterson East and West. I cut my teeth on it. It fits in my pocket. It was my first love. It has been a good birding buddy for well over 20 years.

I have tried to embrace Sibley, but I just can't, it sits on the shelf with all the rest. Having said all that, I also use Kaufman's Spanish guide in the field a lot too. It has stimulated conversation with many non-birders.


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