- My first serious field guide was Peterson's Birds of Eastern and Central North America. This field guide is considered to be a little outdated by many birders but it helped me identify more species for the first time than any other field guide. It emphasized the most obvious field marks for each species using arrows to point them out. It seemed the perfect field guide to help me make the transition from backyard birdwatching to birder.
- The Sibley Field Guide To Birds of Eastern North America: After a year or two of birding on my own, I started to join other birders on field trips. Just about everyone was using Sibley field guides. It almost seemed as if there was a secret birder's bible somewhere with a commandment that said-"Thou shall own a Sibley guide." When I first bought this guide, I didn't like it. The birds in the sketches looked like they had been dipped in bleach. They were so bland looking-nothing like real birds. It took a while to get used to this one but it eventually became my primary field guide. It seemed to be a little more sophisticated and detailed than Peterson's. When I really need to check something specific about a particular species, this is my go to book.
- Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America: The Kaufman Guide may not be as detailed as Sibley's but it sure is convenient to use. It easily fits in my back pocket which is a big plus for me. It covers all the birds of the United States so if a western species shows up in Connecticut it might come in handy. It is easy to use and Kaufman provides unique tidbits of information from his many years of birding experience.
- The Sibley Guide To Birds: This is what I refer to as the "Big Sibley". It's too big to carry around but it serves as a handy guide that I keep near my computer.
- National Geographic Field Guide To The birds of North America: I just bought this one recently. It uses sketches, not photos. I'm not sure what to think of this one yet because I haven't used it for anything.
How is the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America different from the others?
The Smithsonian Field Guide is the only one of the six that uses pure digital photos. There are some birders who prefer field guides that use sketches instead of photos because it is a more accurate way to show the important field marks of birds in various stages. There may be some truth to that but with today's state of the art digital cameras it is possible to capture high quality images of birds at various angles that best display the desired field marks. This guide has done an excellent job in that regard. I'm not going to go into to much technical detail about this book.
Visual Appeal of this book
One thing that caught my attention about The Smithsonian Guide is that it is visually appealing from cover to cover. I enjoy seeing photos of birds in their natural as I read about them. One of the things that first attracts many people to watching birds is their beauty. For that same reason, I think that some people who are just starting to become interested in birding may be better able to relate to this field guide versus others. For those of us who have already been birding for a while this book may serve as a reminder of why we first became interested in birding.
I like the introductionThere is a nice introduction to birding at the beginning of the book which includes variety of topics about the basics of birding. I especially enjoyed the section that talks about how to identify birds. The author-(Ted Floyd)- emphasises that there is more than just pointing your binoculars at a bird and looking for field marks. He says there are times that a bird may be better observed without the use of binoculars. He also encourages new birders to go out on a limb by identifying birds in front of others and provides a strategy about how best to go about this. In the section about birding by ear, the author suggest closing your eyes as you take in the sounds of birds singing around you. The author seems to have a passion for birding by the way he conveys information to the reader.
Can this guide help someone properly identify a bird?
I don't want to get into all the technical details about what's in the field guide. It provides the information and photos necessary to help someone make an accurate identification of a bird. A lot can depend on the degree of difficulty of the species you're trying to identify and how well you are able to observe the field marks. If you're not able to observe enough details then no field guide will help.
How Do I plan to use this field guide?
- When a non-birder asks me what a particular bird looks like, I show them a photo from this guide. They always seem disappointed by what I show them in other guides.
- If I ever decide travel to a different area in the United States, this book will make the trip with me.
- Once in a while, I just like to sit down and flip through a field guide to review information about one or more particular species. I like the fact that this guide includes wingspan, weight and information about how each species molts.
- Even though I only carry one field guide with me when I'm birding, I like to carry others in my truck. Sometimes one field guide will have some information that another field guide doesn't.
The Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America is different from all of the other field guides that that I own and is a welcome addition to my collection.
*A DVD of featuring birds singing comes free with the book. It only contains a limited number of birds but it would seem that this would be a nice tool for a beginner to start learning some bird songs.