When we first heard about The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (Peterson Field Guides) we knew this would be a great fit for our large bird book library, especially as one to be loaned out. We are constantly trying to promote birding to youngsters, and the region covered in the book fits into our home turf of northern Illinois.
Our first impression of the Young Birder’s Guide to Birds was good – the strong binding, portable size, and bright colors of the cover (with a Barn Owl) are all beneficial to the target audience: 8 to 12 year olds. Of course, the true test of goodness lay inside.
The format of the Young Birder’s Guide includes mostly one bird per page (except when comparing really similar species like Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes) and a lot of excellent information about the bird: what to look for, what to listen for, and where to find it. Each page has an excellent map, fantastic photos, and wonderful drawings from artist Julie Zickefoose.
Unfortunately, there is one major problem with this guide. While reducing the guide down to “200 of the most common and interesting birds in eastern North America”, many birds were left out that should not have been. For example, only 16 wood-warblers, 6 sparrows, 2 wrens, and 4 thrushes were included.
Understandably, there are space restrictions, but many of the birds a new birder may discover could frustrate and disappoint as this birder searched the book for, say a brownish thrush. Their choices are Wood or Hermit Thrush, even though the bird may very well be a Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked, or Veery. (Leaving out Bicknell’s Thrush makes sense since it is so range restricted).
We feel that by adding another 30-50 pages or reducing the amount of text in the front, this guide could have been improved without being overly complicated. Another 50 species including most of the warblers, sparrows, etc. would be greatly appreciated in the second edition.
Dakota is a 10-year old birder that has been birding for a couple years now but is still learning a lot, especially warblers and sparrows.
I really like the Young Birder’s Guide. I wish it would have some more birds in it such as Yellow-throated and Pine Warbler. We saw these awhile back and if my uncle (Birdfreak) wasn’t with me and all I had was the Young Birder’s Guide I wouldn’t have known what they were.
I really like the maps because you don’t have to look up what the colors stand for. Like other field guides it is easy to use and has a similar feel to the larger ones (Kaufman, Sibley, Peterson). Perhaps the guide could be a bit easier to use since it is for young birders and those that may have never used a field guide before.
I would definitely recommend this book to my classmates (5th grade) and give it 8 out of 10 feathers.
Sammie is a 9-year old birder that is not as familiar with birds or bird guides but she is learning quickly.
The Young Birder’s Guide gives plenty of information about birds like how to identify them and where to find them. Each bird listing vies a “wow!” fact, which is an interesting fact that is cool to know about the bird. The photos are helpful because they show male and female and sometimes juvenile birds.
The beginning has some helpful tips for kids who want to watch birds, but there was a lot to read and I prefer reading about the birds.
The only problem with this book is it is missing some kinds of birds that I might see. For example, I saw a warbler taking a bath. My family thought it was a Nashville Warbler, but that is one of the birds that is not in this book, so we needed to look in a different bird guide.
Overall, I give the guide 9 out of 10 feathers and would recommend this book to my friends (4th graders) because they can learn more about birds.
Overall, with the opinions of two young birders and our own experience with field guides, the The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (Peterson Field Guides) would make a great gift for a new and upcoming birder. The “wow!” facts actually are quite interesting to read even for advanced birders.
Final grade: 8.5 out of 10 feathers