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A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America [Paperback]

Roger Tory Peterson , Virginia Marie Peterson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 4 2002 Peterson Field Guides
Roger Tory Peterson had already made his mark with his innovative field guide when he conducted DDT research during World War II. His friend and fellow naturalist Rachel Carson built on these efforts and eventually wrote Silent Spring, a landmark text that, along with Peterson’s field guide, jump-started the modern environmental movement.
By combining the tireless observation of a scientist with the imaginative skills of an artist and writer, Peterson created a field guide that Robert Bateman, in his foreword to the fifth edition, says was the doorway for millions of people into the wonderland of natural history. The Peterson Identification System has been used in the more than fifty books that make up the Peterson Field Guide series. Peterson’s magnum opus, now in its fifth edition, created the trail for countless field guides to follow. They are still following year by year, but his is the standard by which all other field guides are judged.
On the morning of July 28, 1996, Roger Peterson was painting his final bird plate. He died peacefully in his sleep later that day. It is fitting that his final work—a culmination of more than sixty years of observing, painting, and writing—should be this one, a revision of the guide that started his legacy.

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About the Author

Roger Tory Peterson, one of the world's greatest naturalists, received every major award for ornithology, natural science, and conservation as well as numerous honorary degrees, medals, and citations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Peterson Identification System has been called the greatest invention since binoculars. These editions include updated material by Michael O'Brien, Paul Lehman, Bill Thompson III, Michael DiGiorgio, Larry Rosche, and Jeffrey A. Gordon.


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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHIMNEY SWIFT Chaetura pelagica Common 5–51?2" (12–14 cm) Like a cigar with wings. A blackish swallowlike bird with long, slightly curved, stiff wings and stubby tail. It appears to beat its wings not in unison but alternately (actually this is an illusion); effect is more batlike, unlike skimming of swallows. They seem to fairly twinkle, gliding between spurts, holding wings bowed in a crescent. Voice: Loud, rapid, ticking or twittering notes. Range: S. Canada to Gulf of Mexico. Winters in Peru. Habitat: Open sky, especially over cities, towns; nests and roosts in chimneys (originally in large hollow trees and cliff crevices).

Copyright © 2002 by the Marital Trust B u/a Roger Tory Peterson and the Estate of Virginia Peterson. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is the last Field Guide done by the great Roger Tory Peterson before his passing in 1996. Most of the plates have been reworked and many redrawn. He was working on the last plate (on Flycatchers) the day he died.
This remains probably the best Field guide for beginner to intermediate birders in the eastern US (and Canada). The illustrations and the helpfull arrows (the "Peterson System") pointing out essential ID points. His verbal descriptions often bring the birds to life, such as his now famous decriptions of Sanderlings and Swifts, and the verbal descriptions of bird songs and calls remain the best of any guide. This remains one of my favourtie Field Guides and is often the one that accompanies me out in the field. The National Geographic Guide may be a slightly more suitable choice for the advanced birder, though birders of all levels would be delighted with this guide.
A welcome change in this edition is the addition of small "thumbnail" maps on the opposite page to the illustration thus removing one of the main criticisms of previous editions. The larger maps remain in the back, still done by Mrs Peterson with help form Paul Lehman. One negative is the slight increase in size (the pages are a little bigger) making the book slightly less pocketable.
Overall an excellent Field guide, which while not reaching the exaltred heights recently set by Mullarney et al in their superb European guide, is the final effort by the man who essentially started it all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best of the field guides Nov. 19 2002
Format:Paperback
The 5th edition of Peterson's field guide is an improvement over previous edtions. The maps are included in the front with the birds now, in addtion to having a separate more detailed map in the back of the guide.
These range maps are the best of all current guides because the details are easiest to see because their so big.
Sibly's is great also but because of it's size(the guide itself) I wouldn't recommend it for the field, more as a reference for back home.
So if your going to own just one field guide the 5th edtion Peterson's is the best all around guide out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The field guide that started it all Feb. 14 2003
Format:Paperback
If you're getting into birding, or want a good field guide to see what birds are at your cabin or in your yard, this is it.
It's got the bird listed opposite from the description and has arrows to show field marks of a species. New in the 5th edition are:
Maps on the same page as the description (maps improved too!)
The description mentions how common the bird is in the east.
The area covered doesn't take a sharp turn and leave out the tip of texas

If you're getting more into birding I'd highly recommend David Sibley's guide, it has many more views and plumages of each bird, but is a bit large to take in the field.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Writ if you watch birds July 6 2002
Format:Paperback
I've had versions of R.T, Peterson's Field Guides ever since high school. I've actually watched birds my entire life from the day my mom told me I could catch a bird if I put salt on its tail and she caught me running out of the house with the salt shaker, chasing after a blackbird. (I'm not making this up.) This book is one of my key tools I use to convert friends and family into bird-o-maniacs. I begin with the provocative remark "Did you know I've recorded over 40 species of birds in our suburban back yard," then I take them out to watch birds at a national preserve nearby. Works every time.
I love the drawings because they give you the average or highlighted characteristic feature of the species. Photos can obscure, although sometimes they are indispensible to make a tough identification. The new edition has a wonderful feature: the range maps are now WITH the bird species and not in the back. Hooray! Range is critical to bird identification--if you think you are seeing a Western Jay and you are in Delaware, well, maybe it is an accidental but probably you saw some other kind of bird. The notes on songs help you identify that unseen bird, and the description of habits is essential.
I suggest if you have kids, that you get a reasonable pair of binoculars, this Field Guide and a set of index cards, a scrap book, a weblog or just use the life-checklist in the book. Have the kids note the species they see, when and where they see them. Soon they will have a fascinating list of what's in their own backyard and you will have something wonderful to do together.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new bird book.... July 29 2002
Format:Paperback
I may have finally found a relacement for my old Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds. My new Peterson guide -- BIRDS OF EASTERN AND CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA -- arrived today and is it beautiful. Best of all, it has a flexible cover and is light enough to carry into the field.
I have dozens of bird books, but this little guide is by far the best for field work. In addition to it's apparently waterproof and flexible cover, and being just the right size for a backpack (you can even carry it in your hand comfortably--no small feat for my arthritic hands), the new guide includes those nifty little arrows Peterson has used forever. The arrows, size specifications, and placement of maps on the same page as the species, allow the bird watcher to immediately locate and identify distingishing characteristics.
The Peterson guide does not contain as much detail as the SIBLEY GUIDE, or the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, or the SMITHSONIAN HANDBOOK - BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, but the Peterson guide is detailed enough for field work and much lighter. If you are a serious bird watcher you will want to buy all four books, but if you can only afford one or don't want to invest in all four, the PETERSON GUIDE is still the best bet. And, I still think the Peterson guide is the best one to use with kids.
The National Geographic guide includes some wonderfully modeled bird specimens with incredible detail that could only be produced digitally. The Peterson illustrations are hand painted and thus not as detailed. Although other books may show more detail, the question is -- will you really need all the detail in the field? Generally, you have only a few seconds to identify a bird.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect quality but took long time.
This is my first time purchasing from Amazon and also smokymtnbooksCA. I got this book after the defined date...it took around 3 weeks to get this book. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2009 by N. Amornputtisathaporn
5.0 out of 5 stars A review for beginning birders (from one, gulp!)
When starting this hobby, there are an immense number of guides and (often expensive) resources to choose from. Read more
Published on June 13 2004 by Ms. Antoinette P. Burnham
5.0 out of 5 stars The is the best bird guide book I've ever seen or owned!
I owe a few bird books but this is the best and most handy one to identify a bird I'm not familar with. I love the arrows pointing to the areas for quick identification. Read more
Published on April 26 2004 by StitchingNut
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful and handy!
Really needed a good (and easy to use) guide for our new bordering-on-the-woods house. We get tons of bird traffic at our feeders, and this book is organized well enough that I can... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2004 by Heidi A. Dugan
4.0 out of 5 stars Field Guide to the Birds
This is a very good field guide, I've owned it for several years. The illustrations are usually accurate enough to make quick identification. Read more
Published on May 13 2002 by J. Lindner
5.0 out of 5 stars small improvement--world of difference
I previously carried an old edition of Peterson's because the pictures are more helpful for identification than those in any other field guide. Read more
Published on April 24 2002 by Jimhy
5.0 out of 5 stars best of series
the fifth edition is by far the easiest and most complete guide i have used and is a wonderful edition to my collection.it's a must for anyone serious about birding.
Published on April 10 2002 by judson gee
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