National Geographic Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America By Laura Erickson & Jonathan Alderfer | 192 Pages | 200 Colour Photos | 200 illustrations | 160 maps | National Geographic Society | Paperback | 2013 | ISBN: 9781426210440
Publisher’s View: The book is a sampler of the rich array of North American birds. From the tiny tufted titmouse and house wren to the majestic great blue heron and bald eagle, the book covers the top species from coast to coast. For easy identification, each bird is presented in a full-color-page spread, with photographs, illustrations and a description of the bird, its typical behavior and its range. Also included for every bird are its voice, habitat and food. A fun readable snapshot of what makes the bird so interesting completes each portrait. A convenient color Visual Index located inside the front cover helps guide users to the right page.

It also provides tips on the best binoculars to buy, the basics of bird identification, and opportunities to broaden one’s bird watching experiences and expertise.

Affordable and lightweight enough to carry on any outing, these two newest additions to National Geographic’s comprehensive library of birding books and field guides are a perfect way for the whole family to discover the joys of bird-watching and explore the continent’s amazing bird life.

Laura Erickson has been a scientist, teacher, writer, wildlife rehabilitator, blogger, public speaker, photographer, and Science Editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She’s written six previous books about birds, including a National Outdoor Book Award winner. She’s currently a columnist and contributing editor for “BirdWatching” magazine. She produces the long-running “For the Birds” radio program for many public radio stations; the program is podcast on iTunes. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

Jonathan Alderfer artist and naturalist, is the resident birding expert at National Geographic. He is author and editor of numerous National Geographic birding books, including co-author of the top-selling “Field Guide to the Birds of North America. ” The author lives Washington, D.C.Fatbirder View: This book is many of the things a first fieldguide should be… light and pocketable, nice rounded corners that won’t curl up, simple in layout and content and having about the right amount of text to aid ID.

However, it falls short of the ideal. It is not comprehensive… and some of the omissions (like a plate of ducks rather than individual pages) is likely to frustrate even the beginner. Secondly, I am not enamoured of the principle illustrations… had a decent line drawing been used instead it would have helped the beginner see the difference between some tricky species and left space for bigger distribution maps… the ones used are better than nothing… but only just, and then only for those with 20:20 vision! I don’t need a picture of a buffalo with a tiny cowbird on its back to get an idea of behavior… that could have been a small insert with the main picture showing me the bird!

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages… I guess so, but maybe the beginner is more likely to benefit from a more comprehensive guide to a smaller area, maybe centred an a few states with similar climate etc. Maybe it would be a good start for a travelling salesman who has just got into birding.

In short a good attempt but lots of room for improvement.

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