Field Guide Requirements-- some thoughts

To: "'Bob Forsyth'" <>, "'Messages Birding-aus'" <>
Subject: Field Guide Requirements-- some thoughts
From: "Gregory Little" <>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 22:24:49 +1100
Gooday Birders


Among your good ideas for FG's I would especially like to see the quick
index to bird groups ie ducks, wrens, finches, cockatoos, falcons etc in
the inside cover and I would love to see a colour chart. Is there an
internationally accepted bird colour chart available? There must be.

Greg Little

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Bob Forsyth
Sent: Thursday, 8 March 2007 5:17 PM
To: Messages Birding-aus
Subject: Field Guide Requirements-- some thoughts

G'day all,


Peter Cooper  wrote 28/02/2007 " ...  I think we need a new web site
called 'Australian Birds From Below and Behind'..." 

that prompted me to post a few words about the design of Field Guides.


Novice Birdos rely 100% on Field Guides (FGs) & thus their ease of use
is essential.


Australia is very fortunate to have a number of very good Field Guides
to Bird Identification

.. although texts over 1Kg such as Pizzey & Knight, and Morcombe barely
qualify as Field Guides


My latest versions include >

- Morcombe, FG to Australian Birds

- Morcombe, FG to Australian Birds, Complete Compact Edition, 2006,
lightweight edition

- Pizzey & Doyle, FG to Birds of Australia, revised edition 1991

- Pizzey & Knight, FG to Birds of Australia,1st ed'n, Reprinted 1997
with corrections

- Simpson & Day, FG to Birds of Australia, 2004, 7th Ed'n

- The Slater FG to Australian Birds, (Revised & Updated) 2003


Each has their strengths and consequently their followers.

... and probably many birdos will have their unique priorities on this



Here are a few thoughts that come to my mind >



Field guides 1st priority is to enable the user to ID the bird ! !

Once the bird has been identified the user can then refer to one of
umpteen texts to read that author's version of the birds' sequence in a
Taxonomic listing.



- Look alike birds should be placed together. Slater does a good job

  but Morcombe has Brown Quail & Little Button-quail  84 pages apart)


- Waders/Shorebirds should be in size sequence (or as close as



- Illustrations for a particular species, should be placed opposite the
appropriate text

  (except where grouped with the text, e.g. Morcombe Compact Edition)

  Slater has a number of annoying exceptions to an otherwise good layout

  S&D placement of illustrations defies logic.


- Birds that are frequently seen on the wing, should also be illustrated
as such

  e.g. Quail, Waterfowl, Raptors, Nightjars


- Birds that are frequently seen from their rear (or below) should also
be illustrated as such

  e.g. Crakes, Rails, Gallinules (i.e. Swamphen, Moorhen)



- Diagnostic features should be highlighted on the illustration, not
hidden in the text.

  .. as they say "a picture is worth a 1000 words"



- The most frequently read pages, the Indexes, should be printed in
easily read font.

  (and road tested by someone with failing eyesight .. in the dusk !)


- Scientific Names and Common Names should be listed separately,


- Common Names listing should be printed nearest the cover,

   and highlight the start of each letter of the alphabet (e.g. Morcombe
Compact FG) 


- Quick Indexes (see S & D 7th ed'n & Morcombe Compact Edition) are a
welcome addition to FGs

  (e.g. S & D 7th Ed'n, Morcombe Compact Ed'n) and should be located on
an inside cover



- Page numbers should be in large bold print, and printed on the outer
edges of the page



- These are a feature of some International texts such as >

   - Shorebirds, An Identification Guide, Hayman, Marchant, Prater

   - Crows and Jays, Madge and Burn (see p166 for Australian Crows)

   - 5 others are listed on Birds Qld Web Page



- I have yet to see any Field Guide include a colour chart ! Why not ?

  How else do you define Rufous, Cinnamon, Scarlet, Olive ?



All FGs should include >

- Glossaries    (example S&D 7th ED'n p346-349)

- Illustrations   (example S&D 7th ED'n p1)



All should have their own web page listing any errors or extra
information and a facility to allow feedback of errors to the author.

The internet is here .. let us use it !



- Covers should be rugged. I find S&D vinyl cover perhaps the best...
but easy to get dog-eared.

- Glossy paper must be kept dry. Nor ideal for a book used in all
weathers !

   earlier Slater editions could be dried out in a microwave (I have yet
to test out the 2003 edition)

- The latest version of Slater has a clear slip cover which appeared to
be a good idea, but mine disintegrated after a bit of use

- Rounded corners seem to prevent dog-ears (latest edition of Slater)




- A Quick Guide to some Waders of Moreton Bay, Litz-Tyne &
Venables,1996, QOSI/BQ

- Field Guide to the Waders, Condon & McGill. 6th Ed'n, 1974, BOCA

  Both these publications provided relative sizes and silhouetes .. a
great idea.

  I look forward to obtain Andrew Geering's forthcoming wader book.


- What Bird of Prey is that ? Beruldsen, 1995

   Contains useful information but requires editing and reformating.

-The Birds of Prey of Australia, Debus, 1998

   Contains useful information but the illogical placement and lack of
an index to the illustration disqualifies the book as a Field Guide


- Birds of Queensland's Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef, Nielsen,

   Introduces a unique method of listing birds within a unique
identification feature e.g.

   Red or orange beak, yellow breast, white rump, etc. Thus a bird can
be listed under multiple headings. I found the book useful for this


 Well, I'll now wait for some useful feedback.

Regards from
Bob Forsyth
Mount Isa, NW Qld.


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