Shaibal S. (“Shai”) Mitra is an evolutionary ecologist, an expert on the birds of New York state, and a lifelong birder. Here he reviews for us three major new bird ID guides: Paul Sterry and Brian E. Small’s Birds of Eastern North America, Donald and Lilian Stokes’ Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and Richard Crossley’s ID Guide.
Mitra’s omnibus review is thorough, informative, and fair. One of the books reviewed here is “so inconsistent as to present a misleading picture of the…North American avifauna.” Another is “impressively thorough and informative,” approaching the greatness of North America’s two finest field guides (NGS and Sibley). And another is likened to a Charlie Parker saxophone solo!
At first glance, these three new field guides look very different from each other: Paul Sterry and Brian E. Small’s eastern guide is small enough to carry in the field (their western guide is slightly thicker but almost equally manageable); the Stokes guide to all of North America north of Mexico is much heavier, as befits its broader geographic scope (and the hint of authority in its
disciplined presentation of multiple photos per species); and the Crossley guide is, as promised, like nothing we’ve ever seen before—exceptionally big and visually bold.
At 8.25 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches, the Sterry and Small guide is built like a traditional field guide, aimed at birders in their early years of bird study. Its layout is attractive and efficient, with 2–9 (usually 4–6) photos on the right side, across from text, maps, and 0–6 (usually 1–3) smaller photos inset on the left side. The photos are superb and generally very effective at conveying identification information. Photo captions are restricted to simple identifiers such as “female” or “adult, winter,” and dates and locations are not provided. Each pair of facing pages treats 2–3 (usually three) species, prudently chosen to compare species that resemble each other, but…
—Shaibal S. Mitra
ABA members: Click here to read the rest of Shai Mitra’s detailed and highly informative review of these field guides.
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