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on 12 November 2000
David Sibley's new field guide to the birds of North America renders all the existing guides obsolete at one stroke. The book itself is beautifully produced and crafted - the sort of book that gives pleasure just in the handling of it. In this single volume, he not only covers all the species likely to be seen in the whole of North America, but more importantly, he illustrates all the plumage variations for each species resulting from differences in age and sex and time of year. He also neatly incorporates pointers to the particular features of each bird that distinguish it, and introduces each family of birds with an illustrated page of its members, a summary of their habits, and what makes them different. The quality of the paintings is astonishing, and his achievement in producing all this artwork single-handed is amazing. This is very much a field and therefore an identification guide, and if you seek detailed factual information on brood sizes, moult sequences,food items, etc, then you will need to look elsewhere. As a field guide it has everything you need on the same page for each bird, including distribution maps, notes on calls and song, in addition to the most comprehensive set of pictures of plumage. He puts into one volume what Peterson divides between two, and the number and quality of his illustrations far surpass those in the National Geographic guide. It sets a new standard for birding field guides, which none of the guides to European birds can yet approach either - this is an absolute must for any birdwatcher who has the slightest interest in North American birds.
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on 8 November 2005
Universally acknowledged as the best field guide to the region.
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.
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on 11 January 2015
Everything that you read about this book on Amazon.uk is true. The book is amazing, is truly a bible for the birds of north America. But the dark colours ruined all the excellent artist job done by David Sibley. There is already a second printing available that, for what I read, resolved all the problems of the previous printing, but it's impossible to know which one you gonna get when you're ordering, if Amazon.uk doesn't a separation between the two printings... it's all a question of luck, on the end... Really bad job for the publisher... My advice: don't buy this book if you're not sure that is the second printing.
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on 6 July 2014
I have had the marvellous first edition of this book for over ten years, and I hastily bought this updated second edition as soon as it came out.

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.
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on 9 January 2014
I have just returned this book as many of the pages (about the first 8 both sides) have parts of words missing on the side of the page and at the very back there is only a part map of America. This was a Xmas gift for my brother and we were disappointed with the quality of the book, although the contents are fabulous.
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on 8 November 2014
Excellent book just what I was looking for
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on 29 March 2014
A masterful piece of work, with larger, clearer illustrations and many more species included. The revised layout makes the book a joy to use.
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