Peterson Field Guide “Warblers”

A Field Guide To Warblers of North America, by Jon L. Dunn & Kimball L. Garrett. With illustrations by Thomas R. Schultz & Cindy House.

First, I don’t want to lead the reader of this column to think that this is a field guide by Roger Tory Peterson. On the contrary, this is another addition to his field guide series. And at 656 pages this is one hefty book. If you had to buy one book about warblers in general, this is the book for you.

After the Introduction, the book goes into “The Natural History of Warblers”. This section I feel is a little short in length, but covers all the important characteristics of the 18 different genera of warblers discussed in the book. Besides the  18 different genera that are described, they go into detail about species limits, hybridization, geographical variation, plumage and molts, habitats, foraging and food,vocalizations, behavior, breeding biology,migration and vagrancy, and finally conservation. And if that wasn’t enough they talk about their research methods in putting this all together.

As with most field guide they educate the reader as to how to use the book. So for each species they will cover the usual items, similar species, voice, habitat, distribution, etc. etc.

Then it’s onto the color plates of each different warbler species. They do a good job at covering every bird whether it’s a male of female. They also have plates for first spring male and female, and fall variations. Granted  warblers can certainly get confusing when the seasons change, and all this is of great benefit for us birders, but they seem to cram a lot of birds on one page. One page alone, showing the plates for the Tennessee & Orange-crowned Warbler had 17 different drawings. 17! It made the page a bit busy. Not saying that it’s useful, don’t get me wrong, but they could have spaced it out a little. At 656 pages what’s a few more. Maybe making the plates of the birds larger would help us older citizens who have to wear glasses to see close-ups. I realize that they put a fair amount of effort into the plates, but Peterson’s pictures are far more superior. I’m rather partial.

There is one part of the book I really love. I mean it. What I discovered while I was birding for warblers at Magee Marsh this last spring was that you spent an enormous amount of time looking up. I think the call it “Warbler Neck”. Besides seeing the belly of the bird, you also get to see the under side of the tail. So they included that little part in this guide. You need every bit of help you can get to identify a bird species, and this covers the bill, or tail, so to speak. Needless to say I like it. And you will as well.

The bulk of the rest of the book is the “Species Accounts”. They take each genus and describe all the warblers in that genus.  With each different warbler species, they give a general overview of the bird before they go into detail their description, voice, behavior, habitat, distribution, status and conservation, subspecies, taxonomic relationships, plumage and molts, and references. They also show one or two color photographs, as well as a nice range map. This section is done very well, and I’m impressed by it.

It’s not the kind of guide that I would take into the field with me, but I feel that it is an excellent field guide for our warbler friends. A great piece of reference material that I would recommend  to anyone who wanted to increase their knowledge concerning warblers. Even though it says $20.00 as the price, I think I only paid $13.00 on Amazon.


2 responses to “Peterson Field Guide “Warblers”

  1. Les,

    You write BEAUTIFULLY!!!!

    I soon became sensory overloaded reading through your blog! I miss those days I threw myself into birding.

    Take me up on my offer to help you fly and stay in Monteverde, Costa Rica, for what you’d pay to do the same to Chicago!

    Getting a passport is a cinch.

    You’d meet and pal around with SUCH neat “normal” birders like yourself, from ALL over the world, up there in the cloud forest.

    You’d stay FREE with my friends (former Canadians) in Monteverde.

    Keep up the good work and I’ll check the blog frequently.

    MAN……you write beautifully!


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