The Sibley Guide to Birds Flexibound – 11 Mar 2014
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About the Author
Artist, writer, and naturalist David Allen Sibley is the author and illustrator of a series of successful guides to nature, including the New York Times best-seller The Sibley Guide to Birds. He has traveled extensively throughout North America and abroad as a birding tour leader and lecturer. Sibley has contributed art and articles to Smithsonian, Science, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Birding, and North American Birds, and he wrote and illustrated a syndicated column for The New York Times. He is the recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Birding Association and the Linnaean Society of New York's Eisenmann Medal. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.
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In many ways this is the ideal guide:-
- the entire continent in a single volume
- everything pertaining to one species on one page
- lots of illustrations per species
- high quality illustrations, uniform in style
- brief, succinct text
- handy maps
- expert author / illustrator
- good sturdy, but flexible binding
However, some things could be improved. First, it cannot really be taken into the field except in a bag, which deters many users from actually employing it as a FIELD guide. Some will say that the large number of species justify the bulk, but this is not so: look at the Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney, et al.) which has used smart layout and cut out the blank areas to cram as much information in as possible. If portability is a problem, then the separate Western and Eastern guides are a solution, or Kaufman for those who require less detail. Secondly, Sibley is often lacking in comparative identification notes for similar species. Both quibbles can surely be corrected in the next edition.
So, which field guide to buy? For a light alternative for those wanting to avoid the thorny details, Kaufman is ideal. If you have more than a passing interest in birds, then definitely Sibley. In that case, though, you probably want several guides including National Geographic and Peterson as (the former in particular) offer additional insight. Don't forget this is the best birding aid for identifying migrants in Central and South America too.
But there are two problems with this new edition. These problems are not with what the author has produced, but with the printing. Firstly, the colours on some of the bird illustrations are too dark. Secondly, the print of much of the text is a sort of faint grey colour instead of black, and also rather small, making it difficult to read.
There has been a lot of discussion about this on the American Amazon website (Amazon.com), and it seems there is the possibility of changes being made when a new print run is produced by the publishers.
PS: September 2017: Now five stars if you get the right print run.
Knopf have now produced a second and a third print run of this book, which have corrected the problems that I referred to above. I’ve just got myself a copy of the third print run, and this is now definitely the five star book that it should have been in the first place.
But be careful – there are still copies of the faulty first print run on sale, and apparently Bloomsbury/Helm currently have no plans for producing a corrected print run of their edition of the book.
So you need to be sure that you get the Knopf edition, and to be sure that you are getting a copy of the second or third print run. (The Natural History Book Service website actually allows you to choose between the corrected version and the original faulty one. The corrected version is more expensive, but well worth the extra money.)