At first glance this volume can be quite overwhelming. This is packed with information and if you can't find the right ID you'll struggle to find all the information like you find here elsewhere in such a complete tome. Every angle, literally, is covered in the fantastic book. With so much modern technology available nowadays so much can now be incorporated into the modern reference and this guide has it all; photographs, range maps, illustrations, sonograms, the lot. Where this guide differs from others is its arrangement. An alphabetical layout as opposed to a taxonomic layout is used. This makes it easier for you to follow considering all the latest DNA work that has moved quite a bit of warblers around from genus to genus and depending on who you follow that can get confusing so having the species accounts alphabetized makes for quick reference. The exception here is the irregular warblers from Mexico which follow after the regular occurring species accounts which are not incorporated alphabetically into the main body of the species accounts.
To begin with the cover is a durable flexibound style which will be helpful if you're using this in the field. Inside the cover is a helpful abbreviation guide for range maps, sonograms and plumages. The beginning of the book follows a classic, albeit comprehensive, line of; contents, how to use this book, icons and key terms, how to use the maps, bird topography; five sections of very comprehensive notes on "what to notice on a warbler", then ageing and sexing, understanding sonograms, how to listen to warbler songs and flight and chip calls, so far this section of the book alone covers 93 pages. After this is a quick finding section covering, tight images of the faces, 45 degree views, under view, east spring, east fall and west, of all the warblers covered in this book. There is then a section on under tail views for east and west with some comparison with nonwarbler species. This is followed by 21 pages of warbler song ID's with attached sonograms. You're probably thinking this is overkill at this point of the book but considering this one group of birds can be the most confusing and most often IDed group of birds it pays to have a book of this caliber to be able to identify any feature you come across.
The species accounts begin after the exhaustingly thorough 138 page introduction. Each species is shown in several positions pointing out key features with "distinctive views" of what to look for and "additional photos" showing other angles with helpful pointers. There are also photographs of "comparison species" and a section on aging and sexing plus range maps showing migration directions as well as breeding, migratory and wintering ranges including subspecies ranges and intergrade zones where necessary. There is also a section for vocalizations and comparison with similar sounding species. For each of the species there is a section for breeding males, females, drab birds or all seasons respectively so each of species' plumages has its own section where applicable.
Following the regular occurring North American species is a section of irregular occurring species from Mexico which get the same treatment as the above. After the main species plates is a section on nonwarbler species one might confuse with them as well as a section on hybrid warblers, even a section on "quiz and review", as if you hadn't studied enough, plus warblers in flight. Then comes North American warbler taxonomy which is shown in a tree format, then measurements, silhouettes, and brief descriptions on habitat and behavior for each species and a glossary and index. Phew!
Overall this is one of the most comprehensive books on the subject of North American warblers and at times is seems daunting when sifting through the breadth of information but if there is a scrap of information you have and need to compare it to something to find an ID, this is where you'll find it. The book isn't light either but it will be helpful in the field if you can keep it to hand somewhere during spring and fall migration when it will probably be needed the most. The photographs are excellent with a few blurry exceptions showing a particular feature not often available in a nice, composed shot and let's face it when are warblers nice and composed? Discerning the information you are looking for may take some time and it's nice to see more being done with vocal sonograms, which is often one of the few ways to ID a warbler when it's at the top of a thick deciduous tree or buried in a mesh of brambles. This will stand for a long time as the key reference guide to these species but there are a few cons. I would have liked to have seen warblers from Central and South America covered as they are in the same family. This guide is geared towards North Americans, so for anyone living from Mexico southwards this guide will only be relevant for Neotropical migrants in their respective neck of the woods and this also applies to anyone who travels south of the U.S. border. Including these species though would have made this book either much taller or thicker which would then make it a truly reference only guide, as it is now on the heavy side for field use the weight of anymore pages would make it basically non-portable in the field.
Also for the layman or casual bird watcher this will probably be too much, but this has to be weighed against the difficulty of the subject. Warblers require careful identification and confusing songs and plumage combined with the fact that there are 50+ species that breed and migrate through the U.S., the more information you have available to Id them the better. That is where this book excels.
This is a guide to the 56 warbler species of the USA and Canada.
You might think that there is hardly any need for a guide to a group of birds that are so patterned, so marked, so coloured and so ...well, obvious! But there is, because they are quite confusing.
The Peterson Guide has a famous plate called `confusing fall warblers' because they are! This book will help you identify males and females, young and old and spring and fall (or even autumn) plumages of this marvellous group of birds.
The whole book has a refreshingly fresh approach. The authors and illustrator have put a lot of thought into how really to help us identify these birds. This is definitely not `just another field guide'. It has a quiz at the back of the book to see whether you have assimilated any of the wisdom of the first 500+ pages.
The several pages of `Quick Finders' are very good. These group images of all relevant warblers for easy comparisons so that you don't have to do that thing of flicking from page to page to page. Some are geographic (eg eastern fall warblers), some are anatomical (faces - surprisingly useful, I think) and some are arranged by view (the 45 degree views from underneath are very useful - reflecting, as they do, a very usual way of seeing these birds up in the foliage).
There are masses of photographs - for example for mourning warbler there are 27 photographs of the bird from different angles etc and six more on the same pages of `comparison species'. This is just what you need.
Catherine Hamilton's drawings are a great help too.
I used to be quite accustomed to `reading' sonograms and making sense of them but I just wonder whether the space given over to them will help many of us to distinguish these birds by song and call. Maybe it will. I'd make sure you take some calls with you on your mobile phone so that you can literally compare notes in the field.
Americans are very keen on mnemonics for songs and there are some brilliant ones here (although whether they will actually help you in the field I am not convinced). For example the parula song is: `Parula is a jeweler, her rough necklaces rise up and snap at the top' whereas Wilson's is: `Pres Wilson started out strong but fell, gradually, due to repetitive policies'. A lot of thought has gone into these and some are quite memorably funny.
Some of the photographs are just stunningly beautiful - because these are cracking birds. Full page images of a few species are simply gorgeous. Take the northern parula on the cover - one of my favourite American warblers - as an example.
It's hardly a pocket guide, and to lug it around when it won't help you identify shorebirds, sparrows or flycatchers in the field, might make it a bit of a luxury. But if I could spend my life looking at spring warblers in the USA and Canada I'd be a happy man. For the `Big Week' at Magee Marsh I would want this book at my side. There are apps associated with the book too, and I haven't looked at the ebook but that might well be an easy way to carry this around - you'd want it in colour though, for sure. And I guess that it could come in very handy on Scilly or Fair Isle in the next few weeks - maybe? Who knows?
As you stare up into the branches, getting `warbler neck', this book will ease the pain.
The warbler guide, is published by Princeton University Press and is available on Amazon as is Mark Avery's book Fighting for Birds.
Collectors of ornithological books can not miss this one. It is a new approach to bird ID, incorporating the great capabilities of digital photography.. Even if, like me, you will never set foot in North America, the brilliant display of the plumages of all species in the various versions - male, female and spring and autumn - is a first. There are incredible numbers of photos, admittedly some a bit small, showing the birds at all angles and with relevant closeups of focal ID features. The introductory section before the species accounts gives a very clear account of how moult occurs and affects the plumage appearance. There is also an excellent explanation of sonograms. Students of evolution will be stunned by the comparative display of all the North American Warblers. Creationists won't like this book. If these species were created rather than evolved, there was a lot of doodling involved!
Having always loved the little jewels that are the American warblers and, being fortunate enough to get to see them regularly, I have been eager to get my hands on The Warbler Guide for some time. So I was very happy to receive a review copy - this is definitely my sort of guide! If, like me, you revel in a wealth of detail, if you want to be overwhelmed by information, if you search for the comprehensive guide, then this is for you too. If you like bird guides to favour visuals over text, and you want all the relevant information in one place, then you will love this book.
More than a guide, this is an identification compendium, an encyclopaedia of American warblers. With over 550 pages of high-quality paper, The Warbler Guide weighs 1.3 kg (almost 3 lbs) - about the same as The Sibley Guide to Birds (Audubon Society Nature Guides). So at the very least you certainly get plenty of book for your money. To be sure, this is not a portable field guide, but I am sure that it is destined to become a standard reference at bird observatories, migration watchpoints, banding stations and birding lodges across the Americas.
Why so big? The main reason is the huge number of photographs (1000+) and figures: for example, there are 58 photos of Blackburnian Warbler, as well as a couple of good-sized range maps and a double spread of helpfully annotated sonograms. Maps show both breeding and wintering ranges south of the US-Mexico border (ideal for birders in the Neotropics) and, where appropriate, two maps are used to illustrate both spring (northward) and fall (southward) migration routes. Subspecies are clearly indicated on the range maps, using scientific names. So, this a highly visual guide: throughout the species accounts, supporting text is short, concise and used to summarise ID points or emphasise particular ID features in photographs. Mnemonics of the songs will help those who do not want to interpret sonograms. This balance of images and text is just what makes for a great identification guide.
In addition to the species accounts, there are over 150 introductory and supplementary pages - not 'fillers' but useful syntheses of comparative data for field identification. These chapters will bear repeated reading and their study will help birders of all abilities.
Any downsides? Well, I find the alphabetic order a little irksome and would prefer to have had closely-related (typically visually similar) species grouped together so that Blackpoll, Pine and Bay-breasted were adjacent and the waterthrushes were consecutive. The authors get over this by repeating information on each species account - it works, reducing page-flipping, even if it does mean some duplication.
Who will buy this book? Anyone visiting the Americas for any length of time will want a copy - and with a good scattering of these birds hitting Palaearctic shores this autumn, I suspect that British and European birders will not want to be left behind. I already have Curson, Beadle and Quinn's superb New World Warblers and Dunn and Garrett's Peterson Field Guide to Warblers of North America. Both were ground-breaking works that have passed the test of time and remain indispensable today. The Warbler Guide will surely join them as a classic reference.
This is a wonderful book that has been a joy to explore. I anticipate many happy hours using this guide in earnest, and perhaps many more in armchair birding at home. Congratulations to the authors on producing such a marvellous resource. The Shorebird Guide next?
Chris Sharpe, 14 October 2013. ISBN-13: 9780691154824
This is a highly-specialised book for those interested in North American wood warblers. Anyone can identify adult males of course but the main purpose of this book is to help with identifying females, immatures and hybrids. It must be stressed that this is an in-depth guide including many photographs, much text and even sonograms. It can therefore only be considered suitable for use at home, in the car or back in the motel as it is quite large and heavy so cannot be describes as a field guide.
Superb bird book with simply stunning photographs and write ups on these amazing warblers. If you are planning a trip to the states or even for your reference shelf at home, this is a must have book for the ornithological connoisseur.