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The Sibley Guide to Birds Paperback – Oct 3 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (Oct. 3 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679451226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679451228
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.8 x 24.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #170,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've been a birder for many years and began a life list around five years ago. I own many of the standard field guides. Only recently did I obtain the Sibley Guide, but it's become my favorite. I generally use Sibley and Stokes in tandem.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is the guide. If you ever wanted to identify a juvenile or a female, this guide has pictures for all. The book covers the Western coast to the Eastern coast. There are all different plumages as well. NOTHING compares to this book.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is a nice book and well worth the money; but if you are looking for the "one" field guide my recommendation is to select the National Geographic Society (NGS) Birds of North America or the Golden Field Guide.
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.
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Format: Paperback
For the first year I owned this book, I dragged it around in the field and decided that I did not like this book because the colors seemed garish. It really bothered me that many of the brown birds in the book looked rather orange, birds with red plumage were a tacky orange-red, and the blue colors seemed unrealistic to my eye. But after owning this book for a while now, I have decided that it is one of my favorites. The best things about it are the range maps on the pages with the birds and the multiple drawings for every bird. I prefer to carry the Peterson guide in the field because I like the arrows that point out distinguishing features in the Peterson guide and I need more realistic color when I am actually comparing a color plate to a live bird. But I bring the Sibley Guide to Birds in my car whenever I go birding. That way I can enjoy Sibley's cheery artwork as soon as I get back to the parking lot. In fact, I even prefer to look at birds in the Sibley Guide when I'm not in the field trying to identify a bird for the first time.
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