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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific identification guide!
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.
Advantages:
1. Logical layout
2. "Species accounts" pages offer an excellent comparative view within the group, as well...
Published on March 7 2004 by Enhydra Lutris

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you had to have only one birding book, this is not it.
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...
Published on April 1 2001 by P. Reese


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific identification guide!, March 7 2004
By 
Enhydra Lutris (Washington State, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (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.
Advantages:
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.
Disadvantages:
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. I imagine it'd be difficult for some people to see clearly.
5. Migratory geographical information only covers North America. I'd like reference for migratory species (even just within text) of migration route start/finish and total annual distance. (Aside: the artic tern has the longest distance migration [Arctic to Antarctic] and can cover 22k - 30k mpy.)
Overall, this a great reference, and I recommend it highly.
However, to Knopf publishers/Chanticleer Press: Please ask Dai Nippon Printing Co to use better binding glue in the next edition!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is it....this blows Peterson out of the water., May 31 2003
By 
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (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. They are colored not black and white stripes like the Audubon guide... They are rather large, and overall wonderful! The names are up-to-date. (Long-tailed Duck was once known as Oldsquaw) Name changes are indicated in the book. Sizes, weights, and wingspans are also noted, along with the size comparison for males and females. Different seasons are indicated (years for gulls), with notes on important markings for individual birds.
Sibley also notes the taxonomy of the birds, and the "topography" of a bird, with diagrams of all the parts of a bird. There is an excellent map in the back of North America, marking islands and territories/states. Sibley makes birding VERY easy, and enjoyable. There is also a quick index as well as a full index. This is THE guide, you can throw the other ones away.
Personally, I NEVER recommend photo guides, and I myself am not a fan of Peterson's. They just aren't complete or up-to-date. Sibley is THE man and this is THE guide.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you had to have only one birding book, this is not it., April 1 2001
By 
P. Reese "muncie-birder" (MUNCIE, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Colors are a bit strange but I still really like this book, March 14 2004
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Guide for Novice and Veteran Alike, Oct. 12 2003
By 
Timothy Kearney (Haverhill, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
I got interesting in birding via photography. I enjoyed our fine feathered friends as much as anyone, but in most cases I thought a bird was just a bird. When people in my camera club displayed their photographs of birds, I began realizing the great diversity in the bird world and became a more objective bird watcher. I am now getting better at identifying birds, and THE SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS has been an indispensable guide.
The author, David Allen Sibley is the son of a famous ornithologist Fred Sibley, and began drawing birds at a young age. His love for birds has continued into his adult years and this book is a product of that love. He is a skilled artist and the book includes numerous illustrations of various birds, the different plumages of the birds, and the birds at flight. The variety of illustrations will help a novice birder identify different species with relative ease. The book groups the birds into categories based on species and includes the subspecies of the major groupings. The book also has helpful hints on identifying birds by size, characteristics of the particular bird, color, and call.
Due to the size of the book, it is not easy to carry the book while birding as it would be smaller guides. The best idea would be to take a smaller guide while birding for preliminary identification, and upon returning home compare notes with the SIBLEY GUIDE to fully appreciate the varied species of birds in North America.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The standard... a classic already, March 25 2003
By 
Daniel L Edelen (Mt. Orab, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
Rarely has a field guide caused the stir that the arrival of David Sibley's masterwork, "The Sibley Guide to Birds", did when it hit the shelves in 2000. Birders of all kinds celebrate when a new guide becomes available, but most of us were taken aback by the comprehensive guide we found in Sibley.
I've been birding for more than twenty-five years, so I've built up quite a collection of guides. Sibley has become my new favorite, incorporating the best of the rest.
The layout of the book features an introductory section that discusses bird classification, range explanations, discussions of species variation,taxonomy, and songs/calls. Then the book follows the order of bird groups that were found in the original Peterson guides, explaining each group and its individuals.
An average page will include:
* A genus breakdown featuring one or two species with info
* Weights, lengths, and wingspreads
* A brief description with taxonomy to note
* Flight paintings (wings up, wings down)
* A minimum of three side paintings: usually juvenile, adult female, and adult male
* Picture pointers for features of note
* A vocal description
* Maps of range with season distinctions and rare sighting pinpoints
This is similar to many other field guides, but there are features of "Sibley" that are unique:
* The sheer breadth of coloration, hybrid, and regional variations in the paintings is extraordinary. This greatly aids in resolving issues where the bird on hand doesn't look exactly like more simplistic guides' illustrations. In other words, if the variant isn't listed for a certain bird here, it doesn't exist!
* Though essentially a paperback, it has a reinforced binding and flexible plasticized cover that give the book the durability expected of a guide while avoiding the more rigid covers that sometimes twist in a backpack and cause the spine to break. Thick pages resist bending and tearing.
* Clean layout. Despite the sheer amount of info on a given page, it is easy on the eyes and cleanly-associated with a specific bird. You won't mix up what you are reading or looking at.
* The size of the illustrations enables detail to come through (but see below.)
* Very current. Allows for migrants and released birds not found in other guides.
* Includes a pictorial overview of groups so a user can see a comparison of birds within a like group.
There are so many good things to say about this guide, but there are a few detractions. The biggest (pun intended) concerns the size, which is fifty percent larger than your average guide. This makes it unwieldy when compared with some other guides on the market. As a result, it is far heavier, too. It lacks a checklist format in the index for keeping a "life list" of birds seen. Lastly, it is a bit short on behaviors that might aid in identification. I suppose these were kept for the companion Sibley guide covering bird behavior, also an excellent book.
I still consider the old "Golden Guide" with illustrations by Arthur Singer to be the best true field guide (because of its combination of excellent graphics and small size), but as a more comprehensive work, nothing beats Sibley. Any serious birder must have this book.
Happy birding!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful complement for my bird book library....., July 30 2002
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
I've owned the SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRD LIFE AND BEHAVIOR for a while, and finally ordered the SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS to complete the set. Both books are published by Audubon, the leading name in all things involving birds--at least that is what my 87-year old Aunt Marge says, and she's been to Audubon camp on many occasions.
The SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS is too heavy to take into the field--it's really a reference book. Roger Tory Petersen's guide books are the best for field work--especially when children are involved. Sibley's guides are great reference books.
Unlike THE SMITHSONIAN HANDBOOK, Sibley's guide does not include a bird profile per page, but like the Smithsonian book and the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA the Sibley guide covers birds in the Northern Hemisphere (U.S. Canada, and Mexico). The National Geographic field guide is lighter than the Sibley guide and thus more likely to end up in the field as the title suggests, however, it is larger and more cumbersome than the Petersen guide and will probably travel in the camper trailer or glove compartment, not in your hand or back pack.
So--use Petersen for field work, get the Smithsonian guide for extra individual detail, and buy the Sibley guide for making comparisons across species types. If you are really a bird nut, get the Sibley guide to Bird Behavior and the National Geographic bird book. The pictures in the NG book are beautiful with lots of contextual detail--i.e. the Kingfisher eating, flying etc, however, although the NG includes the range maps, it does not include the little arrows that help you identify bird idiosyncracies. The Smithsonian and Petersen guides include the arrows and maps, and the Sibley includes maps and selected arrows (not in most cases).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Every bird watcher will want this book in his or her library, July 11 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
Sibley is widely recognized as a top authority on field identification of North American birds. In 30 years of extensive fieldwork this talented artist accumulated the sketches, notes, and drawings that led to this superbly illustrated guide. The treatments of each of the 810 species have detailed paintings to show the natural variations in plumage (e.g., juveniles, male/female adults, seasonal and geographic changes). In all, there are more than 6,600 full-color illustrations. Clearly, this book is the most comprehensive of any North American field guide for bird life, particularly for the depiction of geographic forms, races, or subspecies. The text for each species has a short summary of identification key points, description of vocalizations, and an up-to-date range map. The size and weight of this volume make it more a reference than a handbook. Its exhaustive details of different plumages will be most appreciated by experienced birders. General readers; undergraduates through faculty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Work of art, Dec 14 2001
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
Being a birder in India where we have Dr. Salim Ali's field guide, this book by Sibley is easily a monumental work. It will be helpful to most bird enthusiasts. Since many of the bird species in North America are new to me, this book should help me with the necessary facts for identification.
I find the illustations involving both flying and sitting postures to bring out their colors and also the features of juveniles as great ideas and extremely helpful.
However, I would've also preferred a table of the most common subspecies/ species based on a particular striking feature of a bird, e.g: long tail, legs, color, etc. and based on the comparison of the size with respect to common birds like sparrow, crow, raven, etc. Also, the comparison of sizes with the most common birds could've been mentioned under the particulars of each bird. This would've helped the beginnners to use this book more efficiently as a field guide to identify a bird since the most striking feature of a bird is the one which is usually seen first. This approach by Dr. Salim Ali in his book in India is very useful.
No doubt, Sibley has done an excellent job in doing all the paintings which is not easy. Thanks to Sibley.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stalking the Perfect Field Guide, July 13 2001
By 
James D. DeWitt "Alaska Fan" (Fairbanks, AK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sibley Guide to Birds (Paperback)
The Sibley Guide isn't aimed at beginning bird watchers attempting to identify a bird in the field. While even absolute beginners will appreciate Mr. Sibley's exquisite watercolors, this is primarily a visual reference and not a how-to-do-it key. Birds are in taxonomic order, and there is serious discussion and depiction of races within a species, something that will baffle novices. Beginners would be better served with the National Geographic Guide of Kenn Kauffman's new book.
But for intermediate and advanced birders, or for serious beginners, this is a nearly perfect guide. In particular, I found the pages showing all of the flycatchers on one page, or all of the woodpeckers, or all of the small gulls, to be exceptionally well done. For the treatment of individual species, well, in most cases, you will only find better drawings in the specialty books. I'd be proud to hang any of Sibley's 6,000 or more watercolors depcited in this book on my wall at home.
It's larger than a traditional field guide, but not so large that you can't lug it along in the field. Other reviews imply it's the size of an unabridged encyclopedia; in fact, it's about half again the size of the National Geographic guide.
A few quibbles:
- Stay away from the first printing. There seems to have been a problem with the color. The color quality (and accuracy) is much better in second and subsequent printings.
- Some of the unusual birds, the rarities, are omitted. This spring it was my pleasure to watch a Eurasian Bullfinch. It's a bird that's in National Geographic, but not in Sibley. I'm told Sibley stayed with the birds he knew. Perhaps that's the explanation.
- To the extent behavior is used in identifying birds - Empidonax flycatchers, for example - it's probably not described sufficiently.
But these are truly quibbles. Overall this is a remarkable piece of work and already a classic in its field. There isn't yet a Perfect Birding Guide but David Sibley's work is as close as anyone has come.
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The Sibley Guide to Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley (Paperback - Oct. 3 2000)
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