The Sibley Guide to Birds Paperback – Oct 3 2000
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More than 10 years in the making, David Sibley's Guide to Birds is a monumental achievement. The beautiful watercolor illustrations (6,600, covering 810 species in North America) and clear, descriptive text place Sibley and his work squarely in the tradition of John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson; more than a birdwatcher and evangelizer, he is one of the foremost bird painters and authorities in the U.S. Still, his field guide will no doubt spark debate. Unlike Kenn Kaufman's Focus Guide, Sibley's is unapologetically aimed at the converted. Beginning birders may want to keep a copy of Sibley at home as a reference, but the wealth of information will have the same effect on novices as trying to pick out a single sandpiper in a wheeling flock of thousands. The familiar yellow warbler, for instance, gets no less than nine individual illustrations documenting its geographic, seasonal, and sex variations--plus another eight smaller illustrations showing it in flight. Of course, more experienced birders will appreciate this sort of detail, along with Sibley's improvements on both Peterson and the National Geographic guide:
- As in Peterson, Sibley employs a pointer system for key field markings--but additional text blurbs are included alongside the illustrations to facilitate identification.
- Descriptive passages on identification are more detailed than those in most other field guides. For example, Sibley includes extensive information on the famously hard-to-distinguish hawks in the genus Accipiter (sharp-shinned, Cooper's, and northern goshawk), noting differences in leg thickness and wing beat that will be of use to more advanced birders. A section on the identification of "peeps" (small sandpipers) includes tips about seasonal molting and bill length. Confusing fall warblers, Empidonax flycatchers, and Alcids receive similar treatment.
- As previously mentioned, ample space is given to illustrations that show plumage variations by age, sex, and geography within a single species. Thus, an entire page is devoted to the red-shouldered hawk and its differing appearances in the eastern U.S., Florida, and California; similarly, gulls are distinguished by age and warblers by sex.
- Range maps are detailed and accurate, with breeding, wintering, and migration routes clearly depicted; rare but regular geographic occurrences are denoted by green dots.
- The binding and paper stock are of exceptional quality. Despite its 544 pages, a reinforced paperback cover and sewn-in binding allow the book to be spread out flat without fear of breaking the binding.
Some birders will be put off by the book's size. Slightly larger than the National Geographic guide, it's less portable than most field guides and will likely spend more time in cars and desks than on a birder's person while in the field. For some it will be a strictly stay-at-home companion guide to consult after a field trip; others may want to have it handy in a fannypack or backpack. But regardless of how it is used, Sibley's Guide to Birds is a significant addition to any birding library. "Birds are beautiful," the author writes in the preface, "their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature." Pleasing, too, is this comprehensive guide to their identification. --Langdon Cook
From Publishers Weekly
The bird-watching world knows Sibley best as an immensely talented painter. His thick, attractive and data-packed color guide offers nearly 7,000 images, along with range maps and detailed descriptions of songs, calls and voices, for all the birds North Americans might see. It's a more informative volume than Kenn Kaufman's forthcoming Birds of North America (Forecasts, Sept. 11) but less portable and harder for beginners to use. An introduction describes the key parts of major classes of birdsDthe tomia and culmen of a gull's bill, the scapulars and coverts of passerines (songbirds). Sibley then moves on to hundreds of pages of birds in 42 categories, from Loons and Grebes to Silky Flycatchers and Bulbuls. A typical page has two columns, with one species in each: that species gets a color-coded range map, a description of its voice, and four to eight illustrative paintings. These multiple images of single species are the guide's most attractive feature; they let Sibley show some birds in several poses, as well as important seasonal and regional, juvenile and mature, breeding and nonbreeding, or male and female versions of the same bird. (Gulls, terns, and many other seabirds, in particular, change their patterns completely when breeding.) Sibley assists viewers by giving, on the same page, images of species that might be mistaken for one anotherDone column shows 13 kinds of thrushes. He also describes calls for every bird (not just the more common ones), and makes many more comparisons. If Kaufman's guide belongs in birders' coat pockets, Sibley's big, detailed book belongs on their desks; it's easy to imagine birders rushing to Sibley's guide to check details of plumage or to confirm an ID the smaller guide has helped them make.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
1. Logical layout
2. "Species accounts" pages offer an excellent comparative view within the group, as well as a good all-up overview of the families/genus/species, and general behavior.
3. Individual species pages show comprehensive plumage reference art; more detailed than any I've seen. For this feature alone, the guide is worthwhile!
4. Species pages show variants (e.g., Great Blue/Great White Heron), fledgling and/or juvenile patterns. In some cases art of eclipse plumage is a very nice bonus.
5. Flight/wing patterns where relevant
6. Comparison of hummingbird mating display paths
7. Diurnal raptors section shows perched vs. in-flight underside plumage for each species. It also offers silhouette guides to help teach wing shape if plumage is light-obscured.
8. Good geographical reference map (though smaller than ideal*)
9. Good vocal descriptions
10. Nice (what they refer to as) "bird topography" section
11. Where applicable, good information on regional variations and species clines.
1. This is not a pocket guide; it's cumbersome. I use Stokes in the field, and use Sibley at home for reference afterward.
2. The binding on my copy isn't sturdy, particularly for something that's supposedly a field guide. I feel like I must treat the glue binding gingerly or the pages might start to fall out.
3. Not enough text re: birding ethics & conservation (but that might just be my inner tree-hugger appearing) :)
4. *Geographical range map is small.Read more ›
As many people know, there are 2 "faults" to this guide. There is the rather large size, and it is basically just an identification guide; no information about the species life-style. However, there is another book that covers this by Sibley. Both are extremely big books, as they have to cover such a large area, with over 800 species! I use his other book which is very well written, and I highly recommend it!
The problem with size is very easy to overcome. I think that Sibley quickly realized this, and for that reason split his book into two. So, if you live in California you can buy the Western guide, and if you live in New York, you can buy the Eastern guide. This is a wonderful solution so as to not carry more than you will need. I do not use the separate guides though. Even though I own at least 4 other bird guides, the ONLY one I carry in the field with me (AT ALL TIMES) is Sibley's. The inconvenience in size/weight is worth the find of a female or juvenile bird that I could not otherwise identify.
For new birders, I strongly recommend pictures and NOT PHOTOS. Photos represent ONE bird (leaving out the idea of natural variation), and not the bird species as a whole. Also, Sibley covers hybrids and rare plumages as well. He also indicates that you should be aware of leucism, albinism, and melanistic birds.
Other important features covered include, song/call descriptions, easy to read maps which show summer, winter, year-round, migration routes, and accidental spots. These are the best represented maps I have EVER seen.Read more ›
Here is why. Sibley is very large--about 13 sq inches larger the BNA and 18 sq inches large than Golden, too large to fit in any pocket and it is "heavy".
The art work is good with many more view than either of the other two books, but the descriptive text is very limited.
Here is an example: Huttons vireo.
There are five pictures in Sibley. Two in NGS and one in Golden. But in my opinion only one of this bird is all that is required. Others may disagree. Sibley has one sentence describing this bird 15 words. NGS has 85 words. Golden, 79 words. All three note that Huttons vireo is similar to the ruby crowned kinglet, but Golden and NGS show you a picture of the kinglet right beside the vireo and explain how to tell them apart. Sibley just says to compare it to the kinglet.
Most recent customer reviews
great book for identifying the different birds who come to our feeder.Published 14 months ago by Daniel C
This book was recommend to us by a long-time birder and it is definitely worth the money. We are enjoying having it in our collection of go-to books.Published on Jan. 17 2014 by Koona Sutter
Regretted buying it.
Not much more info than the Field Guides. Not worth the weight of this volume.
Hope this helps.
This is an excellent book content-wise, but it is definitely not a field guide. I would recommend purchasing the two smaller eastern and western edition guides, since they contain... Read morePublished on May 16 2008 by B. Blebs
A very, very good book of truly great assistance in identifying difficult birds such as Bicknell's Thrush and in distinguishing others such as Eastern and Western Meadowlarks. Read morePublished on July 21 2004 by J. Denys Bourque
A truly magnificent book, which, coupled with its companion volume, the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, provides the definitive text on American birdlife.Published on Jan. 12 2004 by MR JIM BARTY
Mr. Sibley has created a bird guide for the 21st century. Practical, logical and incredibly informative, The Sibley Guide to Birds is the bird watchers bible. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2003 by LeicaMan
I've owned the Sibley since it's release and I've just about worn the poor book to nothing. This book, his life's work, holds a detail in it's paintings that is simply... Read morePublished on Nov. 27 2003 by William Cornell
The only authorative guide to U.S. birds. And, a great guide. No birder should be without it.Published on Oct. 13 2003 by Scott Lewis
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