Top critical review
Very nice, for a photo guide
on March 6, 2002
Let me tell you my bias up-front - I generally prefer bird guides which contain illustrations rather than photographs; I have found that poor lighting, bad angles and subjects not representative of their species tend to make their way into photo guides, thereby defeating the purpose. That said, I am very impressed with the quality of images in the Kaufman guide, likely because they're not unretouched. Kaufman uses digital editing to touch up the photographs so that each one is more representative of each species, and so that the quality of lighting is excellent.
It is of a size small enough to be easily carried into the field, unlike my favorite book, the Sibley guide, and the different page background colors are convenient for flipping quickly to the right section. There are short sections in the front of the book on "how to bird," "where to bird," and "what to look for," along with a few other blurbs, but all of this covers only nine pages total. Further, the text accompanying each bird is very short, one small paragraph.
Still, it's readily apparent that a *lot* of work went into this guide, and I'm really impressed with it. While I personally believe that it's not something a novice birder would likely find really useful, like the National Geographic Society's book, intermediate and advanced birders will likely find it easy to use for quick reference about a field marking or species differentiation. Conveniently, he covers all of the birds of North America, thereby obviating the need to purchase one book for the East, one for the West, and so forth.
My best advice is to get your hands on a copy of this book before purchasing it if you're not certain you'll like it - birding guides can be a highly-personal thing, and you may find that this review is just totally buggered! I'm still glad I own this book, and occasionally take it out into the field instead of my preferred NGS, just for the sake of variety.