Kenn Kaufman is one of the most famous birders in North America so it is no surprise that his field guide is immensely popular. But the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America is more than just a famous birder’s take on how to identify birds. It is perhaps the easiest, most useful field guide currently available.
Benefits to the Kaufman Guide
- Uses highly detailed photos to show real birds in action: this helps when trying to compare to a bird out in the field
- Organized by type of bird instead of taxonomically: this improves likelihood of finding an unfamiliar bird by putting similar yet unrelated birds together. The matching color-coded table of contents also improves searchability in the book.
- Follows a tradition started by Roger Tory Peterson in where a bird’s distinct markings are highlighted with pointers
- Side-by-side layout includes the bird photos on the right side and the descriptions and range maps on the left side
- Compact size and solid cover: this guide is a true field guide, fitting in a (big) pocket yet is durable enough to be shoved into any space
Perhaps the best benefit to the Kaufman series of field guides – which also includes Insects, Butterflies, and Mammals – is the ability for kids of all ages to pick up and use the book with great ease. Dakota, who met Mr. Kaufman last year, is able to find nearly any bird in under a minute in the guide.
While we own tons of field guides (and family specific books), the Kaufman is the one we turn to the most. But of course, using multiple guides is highly recommended.
Rating: 10 out of 10 feathers
9 thoughts on “Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America”
I too love the Kaufman guide. I think it gets bad press due to the photos. I remember I brought it on a trip to AZ with VENT when I was a less seasoned birder. At the time, the small Sibley guides didn’t exist and it was all I had with western birds. Other birders looked at me funny.
On the other hand, I run into trouble when I want to suggest a bird for beginners when I’m volunteering at our Sandy Hook book store. I struggle to recommend this guide only because it has “too many” birds in it. I usually recommend the eastern Peterson because I think it’s easier to use than Sibley for a beginner. Also, the range maps tend to be easier to read than in Kaufman since birds that are found on both coasts are shown in a zoomed out map that can be hard to read.
I love my Kaufman Field Guide too–it’s always the one I open first when trying to ID a new bird. For me the best thing about it is the photograph format.
I also his Insect and Butterfly Field Guides in my collection. I don’t think you can ever have too many field guides, can you??
I’d actually never heard of these Kaufman guides–thanks for the info! I’ll have to check them out. Cool that he signed your copy!
Patrick – excellent point about the bird overload; Peterson’s guides and presumably the new one too, have always been well done. Of course, us being in the Midwest, it is good to have ALL the birds included because the division of east and west can get a bit tricky.
RuthieJ – Agreement! You can never have too many field guides, especially if you loan them out like we do 🙂 Kaufman also has a Mammal guide that is delightful.
Lana – You are welcome! We definitely recommend you check them out. We met Mr. Kaufman at a birding symposium and he is a wonderful person beyond being a great birder.
I have the Kaufman guide along with Sibley and Peterson.-All three have come in handy for different reasons.-I’ve been using Sibley but I may start carrying Kaufmann because it fit better in my back pocket-it is a good guide-I agree!
Larry – a variety of guides is definitely a good idea; we could never actually say one guide is 100% superior to the others as almost all are great