US field guide

To: David Adams <>, Paul McDonald <>
Subject: US field guide
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2008 17:10:16 -0700 (PDT)
Paul and David,
I have been birding around most of the US since 1985 and have lived there 
(Philadelphia) for quite a while. I agree with most being said. 
I just want to add/emphasize: Take the "big Sibley" PLUS the latest edition of 
the Nat Geo. The "big Sibley" has the largest number of drawings (greatly 
reduced in the Eastern Sibley, which I don't like for that reason). The 
disadvantage of the "big Sibley" is that there is almost no text - thus almost 
no additional information for the novice (the Eastern Sibley has solved the 
text problem, but instead David deleted one of the drawings per species for the 
Eastern version). Nat Geo has lots of information (comparable to the Eastern 
I would combine the "big Sibley" PLUS the latest edition of the Nat Geo, 
because then you have the advantage of having loads of drawings (also Nat Geo 
has depending on the artist some plates with very good drawings) PLUS written 
I would suggest to get a Mammal Field Guide too (Roland Kays & Don Wilson). It 
is soon great warbler and shorebird season. So one each of the special warbler 
guides (Jon Dunn & Kimball Garrett) and shorebird guides (e.g. Michael O'Brien, 
Richard Crossley, Kevin Karlson) would be a great addition!

Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW

----- Original Message ----
From: David Adams <>
To: Paul McDonald <>
Cc: Birding-Aus Birding-Aus <>
Sent: Monday, August 4, 2008 9:12:06 AM
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] US field guide

On Mon, Aug 4, 2008 at 8:06 AM, Paul McDonald
<> wrote:

> I will be heading to the US for a couple of weeks shortly, and was wondering
> what the best field guide for the region would be? Something that covered
> Canada as well would be useful, as I'll probably end up there in the next
> couple of years as well. The US trip will be around the New York/Ithaca
> region this time.

There are a huge range of general field guides for North America but
the following two are what birders use most often:

"Nat Geo"
The National Geographic Field Guide to the BIrds of North America
A very competent and reliable guide.

The Sibley Guide to Birds"
An astonishingly good piece of work, you have to look pretty hard to
find a better bird field guide for any region on the planet. (Europe
has a better guide but I can't think of another.)

The Nat Geo was the standard guide amongst birders until Sibley was
published. From then on I think a lot of people started carrying both.
Well, Sibley gets left in the card more often as it is quite large
(roughly the size of Pizzey.) As you're going to be in the eastern
half of the continent exclusively you could also get the "Sibley Field
Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America". It's much smaller than
the full Sibley which is, people say, good and bad. Good because it's
easier to carry, bad because the details of the plates are harder to
see. I haven't used it so I can't say. Come to that, I probably should
get the east and west guides as I end up leaving Sibley here (where it
does no good) as the Nat Geo takes so much less space in the bag.

I don't know how much birding you've done in North America so I'll
offer a few general comments. Apologies in advance if they're too
basic! North America has a lot more hard to tell apart birds than we
do here. There's no harm in having multiple guides - and special topic
guides for bulls, warblers, etc., if you get interested. Both of the
guides I mentioned are widely available and affordable in the US and
you shouldn't have much trouble finding them in large book shops
(Borders, Barnes & Nobles, etc.). You'll also find a wide range of
other guides, including several photographic guides. If you find a
photographic guide that appeals, it might be worth picking up if
you're relatively new to North American birds. Few things are more
frustrating than a foreign field guide of plates that describes a bird
as "unmistakable" or "like a <<insert common bird you haven't a clue
about here>> only smaller and tends to cheat at cards". Even some of
the ducks are hard (they have a lot of ducks.) Image databases and
photographic guides can really help here, I've found.

If you have time, it would be worth finding out if there are any bird
club activities happening during your trip. In the context of a club
outing, US birders can be exceptionally helpful and tend to be excited
about overseas visitors. Canadians are always nice ;-)

I can't offer any suggestions specifically about upstate New York but
can say that the forests of the eastern North America are absolutely
gorgeous, and should be lovely (but possibly hot and humid) when you
go. If you're keen, it would be worth finding out if there are any
active beaver dams near where you're going. Beavers have a long
history of waxing and waning in North America based on human attitudes
and lately they've been waxing significantly. (When I was a kid, they
were virtually unheard of in a lot the east now they're becoming a
nuisance in some areas.) Even if you don't see a beaver, the dams and
their ponds are beyond impressive. (I never get get tired of visiting
beaver dams...but that might just be me.) The oak forests are also
typically teeming with squirrels, which is a treat.

Have a great trip!

David Adams

Wallaga Lake 2546 NSW

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, 
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU