Good Field Guides for Birding

tmffFebruary 2, 2013

I don't want to make this sound like its some sort of spam (because it is not), but I cannot recommend highly enough the Crossley ID Guide for Eastern Birds for anyone wishing to hone their eastern North American bird watching skills.

I have no field guide as overall useful as this one. The guide shows actual (overlayed) full-page photographs of species in their respective typical habitats. All ages, genders, and plumage variations (not to mention different viewing angles) of each species are included.

I saw that a new raptor-specific edition is going to be available in March. I am ecstatic!

That is my recommendation. Do you have one to share as well?

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I forgot to mention re: Crossley ID Guide - any species that ever occurs east of the Rockies is included. To give a specific example, the Western Tanager is listed in this guide but the California Condor is not.

I read on Crossley's book website that a western guide and a British guide are in the works.

This post was edited by TMFF on Sat, Feb 2, 13 at 13:10

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:07PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

You remind me that I've been wanting to get the Crossley Guide, just haven't gotten around to it.

I mostly use the "Sibley Guide to Birds" and the "Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America", both by David Allen Sibley. These use illustrations, not photos, and have useful visual comparisons of similar birds. I keep going to the page on "Emberizine Sparrows and Their Allies" when I'm faced with yet another little brown bird.

I also have the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds - Eastern Region" which is a little harder to use but has good photographs to browse through.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 5:46PM
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Great guides, claire! Most birders I know have one or more Sibley guides; the name "Sibley" seems to be tossed around as a common household name among birders! I myself just purchased a FANTASTIC Sibley guide- it's called "Hawks in Flight, Second Edition" by Dunne, Sibley, and Sutton. It has plenty of Sibley's fantastic illustrations as well as very useful photographs of N. American diurnal raptors from the view we typically get of them- wings spread and soaring 200 feet above us. If you are interested in raptor ID, this is a great guide. It teaches how to ID not just by plumage (which is easier) but also by shape and form (and some other finer details).
Buy that Crossley guide- it's life changing! (I kid you not!)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:49PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

TMFF: The Crossley guide is inching up on the list of things to get. Soon, when I want to give myself a treat.

One thing I'd like to see in a field guide is a photo or illustration of the back of the bird. They usually show the side view and often the front to show the coloration of the breast and maybe the notched tail, but never the view of a bird that I often see as it perches on the wisteria in front of my window, or forages on the ground, facing away from me.

Sure, you can infer what the back looks like by mentally subtracting the underparts from the side view and doubling the top view, but that doesn't really tell you that an American Goldfinch can look like this when molting.

or a White-winged Crossbill from behind:

Luckily, the crossbill (I've only seen one, ever) turned around for me.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 1:24PM
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Nice Crossbill! It's been a good year for seeing them. They've irrupted into Kansas this year too.

But I hear you on the back views. I wonder if there are guides I am not familiar with that are just for feeder species that contain photos like you've taken. I assume you've flipped through a Crossley guide before, but if not, there are quite a few species with a backside view included- funnily enough the Am. Goldfinch (nonbreeding male) and WWCR (albeit a female) have back views on their respective pages. It's very helpful because you can see the species-specific wing bars that should be diagnostic on these species, despite the molt and/or gender. Crossley gets the job done! My guide is already getting beat up due to taking it with me everywhere.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 1:52PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That crossbill pic was from January, 2008. I haven't seen one since. Not much irruption this year here, just Red-breasted Nuthatches.

I hadn't flipped through a Crossley guide or I probably would have bought one already. I just read the reviews which were mostly very good, with a few quibbles.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:02PM
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My only complaint is that it's getting so easily beat up, but that is the price for a large guide. It's about 8" x 10". Also, it's more of a visual guide than anything, although it also includes excellent range maps on the same page as the photos. Only a short paragraph of info, though. Used together with more verbally descriptive guides, you're golden.

Good Birding! Tami

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:11PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I bought the Crossley ID Guide and I really like it. This is the page for Red-shouldered Hawk, which has come up recently on this forum and also on the New England Gardening Forum.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:11PM
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This Crossley ID book will always be my favorite. I can't tell you how many times my book has sat on my desk open to this very page (RSHA).

I still plan to purchase the raptor-specific version that is due out on the 24th of this month. Should be some even better angles of this species in particular, which changes so much from juvenile to adult.

Hope you're enjoying the book as much as I am! Sounds like you are!

This post was edited by TMFF on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 15:25

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 2:57PM
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