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Article in: Book Reviews
October 28, 2009

Review of Birds of Eastern North America & Birds of Western North America

The following is a review of the two amazing new photographic bird guides: Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide & Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide. Both guides are by Paul Sterry and Brian E. Small and are published by Princeton University Press.

Stunning. This was the first word that came to mind upon cracking open these new guides. Before diving into any of the introductory text or even reading through the species accounts, I paged through the unbelievable photos with wide eyes. The photography alone is worth owning both Eastern and Western editions. Even so, the accompanying text is fantastic too.

Excerpt from the Western edition

Both guides have a wonderfully written introduction which includes nine full pages on bird habitat. This is most welcome because bird identification is aided greatly if you understand habitat and what birds are found where. There is also one page on plumage, something I wish was covered in greater detail with more photos. Plumage is often misinterpreted by many new (as well as experienced) birders.

The layout of both Eastern & Western versions is the same: left side holds the range map (from Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and text that covers identification clues, habitat, voice, etc. Some species also have a smaller photo on this side. On the right side is a cluster of large, beautiful photographs that cover male, female, immature, and alternate variations (where applicable). These photos definitely aide in identification.

Excerpt from the Eastern edition

Similar species are arranged closely together for quick comparison and the index is easy to use to find a particular bird (as tested on my father). The top corners of the pages (see image on the left) have small birds which also help to find specific birds while flipping. Quite a few of the species found in both editions have variant photos for the bird, especially when regional differences are encountered.

My only real qualm with the guides are their lack of white space. The layout is a bit crowded with so much information and so many photographs that it becomes a bit cluttered and overwhelming. The artistic value is superb though, so it may have altered the layout too much to provide a roomier feel.

Paul Sterry is the author or co-author of 50+ books plus a photographer as well. Brian E. Small is one of the world’s top nature photographers, featured in countless publications.

Purchase Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide (Princeton Field Guides) or Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide (Princeton Field Guides)

Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide
Paul Sterry & Brian E. Small
336 pages | 1,118 color photographs | 405 maps
Princeton University Press – $18.95

Birds of Western North America: A Photographic Guide
Paul Sterry & Brian E. Small
416 pages | 1,341 color photographs | 449 maps
Princeton University Press – $18.95

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  1. Review Roundup: December 8, 2009
  2. Princeton University Press – Double Field Guide Giveaway!

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