Review of Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

The long-awaited update to The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is an almost 800 page major revision of the popular similarly named guides to the eastern and western regions of North America.

This new guide is beautiful and big and covers all of North America’s bird species. The merge of both east and west regions makes this guide bulky, heavy, and not necessarily a “true” field guide (to be used in the field). But it provides a lot of great photographs and information and is a worthy addition to the birding library.

The introductory text is a bit sparse with just the basics about how to use the book and the different parts of birds. The species accounts include numerous color photographs and show the birds at different angles to best showcase identification features.

The text describes what critical features to look for, habitat and migration information as well as an explanation of the bird’s voice. The range maps are small but easy to understand.

Also included in The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a CD of bird calls of 150 bird species. The sounds are referenced throughout the guide with the matching number on the CD for quick reference.

The sounds are from the widely popular Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs (Eastern and Western) and provide a nice companion to the guide, especially after loading them into an iPod or similar device.

Overall, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America provides a visually appealing reference book to birds. It doesn’t quite work as an “in the field field guide” but the photography and text are worthwhile to aide in familiarizing with birds you are likely to see.

Disclaimer: This book was given to us by the book’s publisher to provide an honest review.

6 thoughts on “Review of Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

  1. Oh wow, I just found your blog, it is great.. maybe you could tell me if you think my bird webcomic is any good? I am just starting it.. I think I have some accurate stuff, I mean, not everything is real in it, I have some silly things too.

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  2. Greetings,

    Thank you for your review. However there are a few things which we feel should be clarified for your readers.

     The Stokes Field Guide To the Birds of North America is not an “update” to our original regional field guides; it does not contain a single sentence or photo from our original guides. It is an all new guide and the most comprehensive national photographic field guide that has ever been published. It contains 3,400 photographs and covers 854 species, including well over 100 rarities not included in almost all other field guides (drawn or photographic). We also cover all subspecies and hybrids.

    You say that our guide is not necessarily a “true” field guide (to be used in the field)” because of its bulk. We are not sure what you would consider a true field guide. Our guide is essentially the same weight as the Sibley Guide, and at 5.5 x 8.5 inches, it is smaller than the Sibley Guide and the new Peterson Guide. We have found that different birders have their own ideas as to what they may or may not carry in the field. Many birders have indicated to us they will carry our field guide into the field in a jacket or backpack, others prefer to have it in the car, etc.

    The introductory text covers more than just the “basics” about the book. It includes explanations of the area and species covered, the species accounts, detailed descriptions of aging and seasonal plumage, molt, subspecies, the ABA rarity codes, our approach called “quantitative shape,” and more.   

    Once again, thank you for your review and good birding.

    Don and Lillian Stokes

  3. Thanks for commenting, Don and Lillian. We meant it as an “update” in the sense as it has been years since a new Stokes guide came out. We were unaware that the text and photographs were 100% new (seems a shame to not reuse some of the material). The remark about it not being a “true” field guide is just that: to us it is much harder to use in the field on a trail away from home or car. The “big” Sibley is also difficult in the field but the Kaufman and regional (east/west) guides are much more field-ready.

    The introduction could have used more about habitat and conservation. Most new field guides are including this as a “big picture” of birding and how these factors improve the process of identification. The photographs are superb and the species coverage awesome. I’ll use the guide as an at-home reference/learning tool.

    We had one sent to the newly formed (this year) Illinois Young Birders Club so I’ll try to get feedback from them as well.

  4. Hi Birdfreak Team,
    Young birders are such an important part of the future of birding.
    Thanks for having our field guide sent to the Illinois Young Birders Club. If they would like more copies, (autographed) let us know. We are also sending copies to other young birders clubs and programs.
    We hope you continue to enjoy our new field guide.
    Don and Lillian Stokes

  5. A NA photo guide of this scope was long overdue, and this volume is especially especially well done. It breaks new ground as well as covering in text and photos virtually all NA birds. Yes it’s a thick book, but better that than to leave out essential information.

  6. Jon F – excellent points! The thickness is needed to include so much info but we still hope for a guide that is more “field-friendly”. Most guides are tending towards bigger and thus not as useful “in the field”.

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