by John L Bull; Edith Bull Book  |  1st Collier Books ed
"Fast and Easy Reference"   (2013-07-31)
The problem inherent in most pocket field guides is obvious the minute you pick them up. Unless you’re wearing a parka, or you’re Captain Kangaroo, it’s going to be a very snug fit. If you do manage to tuck it in, you’ll be listing to starboard all the while you’re out in the field. The usual workaround to lighten the load – printing on extremely thin and flimsy paper – backfires the first time you try rapidly flipping through the pages. In order to be comprehensive and complete, something had to give, and sadly, that is often its practicality. They are wonderful as a desk reference, and great in the studio, but fall flat very fast in a quick-flip situation.
The Macmillan series entry, Birds of North America, has solved that problem by downsizing. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people, and by limiting its scope and narrowing its view, it becomes the ideal guide for the purpose for which it was intended, practical, quick and easy reference in the field.
Its streamlined and simplified “Reader’s Digest” approach to identification, and its omission of lesser known and rarely encountered species makes it a perfect first guide for the beginning birdwatcher, or the less patient seasoned naturalist.
The birds are grouped by appearance, type, and behavior, and not by scientific association. Birds with nothing in common other than their similarities in color and feather patterns are shown on the same page. The headings couldn’t be more descriptive or more useful. They are logical and intuitive. You will find the Common Grackle in among the “Blackish Birds;” no surprises, there.
There are 340 species on the 54 plates, and the listings begin with the species most often encountered. The text is informative and well written, and the full-color renderings by artist James Coe are beautifully done and extremely accurate.
For ease of use and portability, you can’t beat this great little volume. Of all the guides in my collection, this is my favorite. You won’t need a backpack to carry this one.
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