A Best Book Nominee for 2005
If you have not seen the new hawk ID book, "Hawks From Every Angle" by Jerry Liquori, you need to get your hands on it. The author is a longtime hawk watcher and photographer, and, judging from the information in this book, a hawk identification master.
This book's goal is sorting out the identification of raptors in flight. The approach is very straightforward, though the text can be a bit technical at times. The photos are excellent and are the book's strength. In my opinion, this book manages to defeat one of the negatives associated with photo-based guides, the reality that it's hard to get apple-to-apples comparisons between similar species using photographs.
Why? The images are almost never similar enough to make a comparison easy. The birds may be in different plumages, positions, light conditions. The images will likely be taken by different photographers--perhaps on different continents! For this reason, many bird watchers prefer their field guides to be illustrated with artwork, where the artist or artists can render the birds in similar fashion for the easiest visual comparison.
Jerry Liquori's book uses his photographs, images collected over years spent at major hawk watch sites. The author (and the book's designer) have done a great job of showing the birds in remarkably similar positions. Liquori covers 19 common raptor species and shows photographs (sometimes several) of each one Head On, Soaring, Gliding Overhead, Wing On/Going Away, accompanied by descriptive text. Even better, he outlines some common pitfalls of hawk identification. For example, while head projection (how far the head extends beyond the leading edge of the wings) can help a birder tell a (big-headed) Cooper's hawk from a (smaller-headed) sharpie, a sharpie with a full crop can appear to have the head extension of a Coop.
Like the title promises, Liquori delivers "Hawks From Every Angle." My hawk ID skills are improving with every page I read. In fact, I'd love to have this book in a distilled version, showing just the photos, for easy reference and use in the field.
In case you are an impulse buyer, here is the link to the book on Amazon.com.