The Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding What You See and Hear is a great addition to Kaufman’s spectacular Field Guide to Birds Of North America. Whether you are already a seasoned birder or just getting your binoculars dirty, this book is loaded with exactly what birders need to improve their birding skills.
First off, we know Mr. Kaufman from his spectacular work in his home state of Ohio and the world over. His ability to showcase his own expertise in a way that never comes off as boastful or arrogant, paired with his commitment to help out birders of all levels makes him one of the finest teachers. Ken’s writing in Advanced Birding makes you want to learn more.
The fun thing about birding is you can enjoy it on many levels in many situations and can tailor how, when, and where you bird to meet your own desires. Advanced Birding doesn’t dictate how all birders should go about birding but instead provides an easy-to-understand guide in ways to improve your own birding, at your own pace.
Of course, Advanced Birding is anything but simple. The information included is as complex as birds are. To learn how to identify shorebirds (chapters 15 and 16), you’re going to have to put in a lot of work, both in studying the text and spending time in the field.
“We need millions of perpetual beginners who value our wildlife and who support conservation efforts. In the larger perspective, broad support for conservation is far more important than accurate field identification, and a truly advanced birder will never do anything to discourage the casual bird enthusiasts.” – Kenn Kaufman
The Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding contains 31 chapters which can be broken into two parts: the first seven chapters cover field identification of birds as a whole, areas like plumage and molt as well as resources for bird identification. The second part contains chapters on specific families of birds and how to identify them. This means that you can read a section on a specific group of birds and gather new knowledge on particularly tricky birds.
Perhaps the most vital chapter of the whole book is “Principles and Pitfalls of Field Identification”. Here Kaufman covers 14 principles (like “Always Use Multiple Field Characteristics” and “Learn to See Details”) and 11 pitfalls (such as “Variations in Voice” and “Impressions of Size”). I’d suggest reading through this chapter more than once!
Each of the family-specific chapters provides a multitude of facts and information on sifting through closely (and not so closely) related birds that are commonly grouped together (and commonly misidentified).
This text-heavy book is complimented wonderfully by beautiful photographs and illustrations to help you understand specific identification points. For me at least, I found it extremely helpful to read a chapter at a time, say “The Empidonax Flycatchers”, and then head to a place I was fairly certain I’d find some flycatchers (from past knowledge) and quietly observe for awhile. This slowed down approach or “observational birding” is a great way to put Advanced Birding to work for you!
Observing a Willow Flycatcher, really watching it for several minutes, really helps to nail down not only what makes it a Willow Flycatcher but also adds to the growing knowledge base for when the next flycatcher seen is something other than one.
The Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding really is geared towards birders and is an extremely helpful learning tool. Kenn is a one-of-a-kind teacher and birding mentor and a copy of this book belongs in the hands of every birder.
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