Bird Songs Bible: The Complete, Illustrated Reference for North American Birds
A bird book comparison. I am more of a photographer than a avid bird person, but I do like to know what my feather subject are properly called. To that end I have used The Golden Guide to field identification Birds of North America, and the National Audubon Society Field Guides (Rocky Mountain States edition). The basic reason for the two is as follows, the Audubon guide features photographs of actual birds. In most cases this is very nice, but quite often the bird is obstructed, in a bad pose, or not quite in top plumage colors. The Golden Guide presents the color drawing of the bird, with the pose and features laid out to suggest the way that you will see it in the field. Neither is definitive which is why I use both. Most bird experts will tell you that much more often you will hear the bird way before (if ever) that you will see it, and that if you can, that is a quicker way to identify it. Great, but if you are like me, memorizing bird songs is as easy as memorizing the morse code. I can only remember a couple at most. Recognizing this fact the Golden guide includes a pictorial representation of each birds song, with a frequency vs time plot. With time you can make some sense out of it. The Audubon guide includes a line describing the voice, for example of a Cedar wax wing; Voice Call; high thin "seee". The Golden Guide describes it as a "very high thin monotone, generally with a slight quaver that distinguishes it from the Brown Creeper". Ok, I think you get my point, unless you already know what the bird sounds like, it is hard to imagine it from the description. And if you are trying to distinguish say a Bohemian from a Cedar Waxwing, the pictures look too similar. Here is where the Bird Song Bible comes to the rescue. You push 546 for a Cedar, and 545 (or left arrow) for a Bohemian. They don't sound anything alike, mystery solved. I could never positively identify the owls around my house, once again the Bible quickly identified the Barred Owl. They even include their own vocal description "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all". A classic owl hoot.
For bird description here is a quick comparison using the Cedar Waxwing. Golden Guide 83 words, Audubon 77 words, Bible 230 words. All of the books include a range map or description for various seasons. The Bible splits up its text into: Description, Distribution, Habitat, Behavior and Vocalizations. It is by far the most comprehensive. The picture in the book are large color drawings, 4-8" on the average, and quite high quality.
The Bible may not be hard core birder book, but it is the most detailed popular book that I have seen. Yes it is very heavy, the call player interferes with flipping the pages, but it does what it set out to do very well. My major gripe is that not only is the text quite small, but the publisher decided to print it in a grey, not black, font. Talk about hard to see! A minor gripe is that the volume level even at maximum is quite low.
So this is a terrific bird book, I can only hope that there will be a pocket version with a MP3 player in the future.