The introduction is a must read especially for those who are just beginning to appreciate birds and bird-watching. Author Ted Floyd, who is the editor of ABA’s (American Birding Association) Birding magazine, writes in painstaking details everything one needs to know to enjoy birding – from identifying bird species to the natural history of birds. He also talks about conservation and birding ethics.
The book then lists more than 750 species found all across North America. Each bird group is given an introduction outlining taxonomy, feeding, migration, habitats, behaviors and conservation status. I found the 2,000 high quality photographs taken by the who’s who in avian photography illustrating each species covered, showing birds in their natural habitats to be very effective. I am an amateur bird photographer and whenever I’m stumped with the identification of a bird whose photograph I just took, I just look it up in this field guide and the answer is right there. Each photograph is labeled with the state and month the picture was taken – a very helpful information particularly when there are regional and breeding/non-breeding differences in the species’ plumage.
Color-coded range maps showing summer, migration, winter, year-round and rare (but regular) occurrences are also included in each bird species covered.
What I consider a big plus is the included DVD of birdsongs for 138 common species. A total of 587 vocalizations (call, song, etc.) is recorded for each of the 138 species. These are coded in high quality mp3. The corresponding bird image is included which makes it perfect for use on home computers or handheld mp3 players.
There is a handy Quick Index at the end of the book and the page numbers are conveniently located at the upper right hand corner – perfect when flipping through. Although slightly wider than the comparative field guides, it is still compact enough to be carried in the field. The covers are sturdy enough to withstand usage in different environments.
I have two other field guides but since I have gotten a copy of the Smithsonian, I found myself referring to it for my bird IDs more and more.
My only nit is that despite the abundance of photographs, there are still a few plumage variations that were not represented.
All in all the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a welcome addition to a birder’s library. For a novice birder, this is a must-have.