The first thing you’ll notice when you first open up the book will be the Introduction. The first sentence reads, “This book is too large to be a field guide, so what is it? ” Weighing in at over 3 Lbs. and measuring 6 3/4″ by 9 3/4″, this is a large book. My first experience with this book was several months ago on my trip to Lake Erie with John Marvin. He had brought it along for the day. He didn’t have a pocket big enough to stuff it in, so it was relegated to his day pack, only to be brought out when needed. And that’s the primary purpose for this book. For me, it sits in the car when I go out into the field. It’s your “companion guide” as stated on the front cover. I’ll use it to confirm or un-confirm a sighting. When your field guide just isn’t enough to identify a bird, this book will give you more information to assist you in properly identifying the correct species.
There’s not much to the beginning of the book. 2 pages for the Contents and 4 for the Introduction. The Introduction, being brief, covers the text, photography and art, and how the range maps are laid out. The taxonomic organization used in the book is the one currently adopted by the American Ornithologists’ Union. It’s further organized by family, genus, and species. The Introduction educates the reader in Plumage Variation, Feather Topography, Bird Anatomy, and Bird Abundance.
The book is broken down into 82 chapters, that represents the 82 different families. At the beginning of each chapter, the authors of the individual chapter discusses the behavior, taxonomy, distribution, plumage, behavior, structure for the species found within that “family”.
The color art and photography of the individual species is exceptional. The content for each individual species goes into greater detail than you’ll find in your field guide. Even though a typical field guide will cover Identification, Similar Species, Voice, Status & Distribution, Geographic Variation and Population, this book goes into greater detail for each of the different Sub-Titles.
The map used is slightly larger than your normal field guide map, which is a benefit for us older adults with eye sight problems.
At 664 pages, cover to cover this is a very concise, updated, and very user friendly book. I was fortunate enough to find it on a clearance shelf at my local Borders Book Store for only $10.00. It’s a super addition to my repertoire of guides that I own. Consider purchasing this book for your own as well. Two big thumbs up.