Books  Zoology  Ornithology  Birdwatching 

Better Birding: Tips, Tools & Concepts for the Field

Handbook / Manual
Reveals the techniques used by expert birders for quick and easy identification
Simplifies identification with strategies tailored to different groupings of birds
Features hundreds of photos and composite plates that illustrate the different techniques
Fosters a wide-angle approach to field birding
Provides a foundation for building stronger birding skills

By: George L Armistead (Author), Brian L Sullivan (Author)

318 pages, 850 colour photos, 4 colour maps

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Dec 2015 | #181022 | ISBN-13: 9780691129662
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £22.95 $28/€26 approx

About this book

Having a North American focus, Better Birding reveals the techniques expert birders use to identify a wide array of bird species in the field-quickly and easily. Featuring hundreds of stunning photos and composite plates throughout, Better Birding simplifies identification by organizing the birds you see into groupings and offering strategies specifically tailored to each group.

Skill building focuses not just on traditional elements such as plumage, but also on creating a context around each bird, including habitat, behavior, and taxonomy-parts so integral to every bird's identity but often glossed over by typical field guides. Critical background information is provided for each group, enabling you to approach bird identification with a wide-angle view, using your eyes, brain, and binoculars more strategically, resulting in a more organized approach to learning birds.

Better Birding puts the thrill of expert bird identification within your reach.

Please note: this book was originally announced with the title Advanced Bird Identification.

"[...] So will Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field actually help you to be a better birder? Yes, it certainly can. Intermediate birders, especially, will find it extremely useful. And anyone, experts included, should get it if it covers a group you’d like help with. I hope to see even more bird groups getting similar coverage in Better Birding 2!"
– Grant McCreary (16-01-2016), read the full review at The Birder's Library

"[A] serious, immensely informative book [...] The book is like an expertly guided tour – one that visits wetlands, open country, waterways, forests, shores, and other habitats from Alaska and the Pacific coast to Florida's Dry Tortugas and the Gulf Stream waters off Cape Hatteras, making clear, along the way, what members of each group have in common and how they differ, and, indeed, why each bird is."
BirdWatching Magazine

"This book, written by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan, is a refreshed approach to species identification. While most field guides focus primarily on plumage, this approach is 'wide angled' and more holistic with habitat, behavior, and other contextual elements coming into play."
London Free Press

"The book covers some water birds and hawks, wrens, flycatchers, swifts and more, but wisely confines itself to groups of birds involving relatively few species. Each section includes numerous photographs and in some cases composite photo illustrations for comparisons. The accounts also include distribution maps."
– Tom Palmer, Lakeland Ledger

"It comes as no surprise that Better Birding is unashamedly directed towards a North American audience. Yet because the book is devoted to better ID techniques of bird families shared across the Northern Hemisphere or vagrant species which show up on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, many of the chapters contain pages of undoubted interest to a UK audience [...] The authors should be congratulated in sticking to their chosen parameters and not falling into the trap of producing yet another full field guide to North American birds but instead focusing on/singling out a number of bird groups worthy of special mention."
– Another Bird Blog

"[...] In the Western Palearctic, the bar for books that develop identification skills has been set incredibly high over the years, and recently raised further by the Birding Frontiers Challenge Series. While I did not find the information in this comparable North American offering quite as accessible, and it lacks the added dimension of hand-drawn illustrations, the attention to detail and alternative perspectives it offers make Better Birding a worthy addition to the library of anyone keen to improve their North American bird identification skills."
– Nick Moran, BTO book reviews


Acknowledgments 8
Introduction 10
Wide-Angle Birding: Be the Bird, See the Bird 11
Becoming a "Good Birder": Understanding the Basics 12
Birding Mentors 26
Why Birding Is Cool 26
Loons 29
Swans 45
Mallard and Monochromatic "Mallards" 57
White Herons 69
Coastal Birds
Eiders 83
Brachyramphus Murrelets 93
Pacific Cormorants 103
Sulids: Northern Gannet and Boobies 115
Tropical Terns 129
Atlantic Gadflies 137
Large Shorebirds
Curlews 149
Godwits 161
Marsh Sparrows 175
Small Wrens (Troglodytes and Cistothorus) 187
Birds of Forest and Edge
Accipiters 199
American Rosefinches 211
Aerial Insectivores
Swifts 221
Night Birds
Screech-Owls: An "Otus" and the Megascops 231
Nighthawks 241
Open-Country Birds
Yellow-bellied Kingbirds 253
Black Corvids: Crows and Ravens 265
Pipits 281
Longspurs 293
Cowbirds 303
Index 312

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George L. Armistead is events coordinator at the American Birding Association and a research associate in the Ornithology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. He has led birding tours on all seven continents.

Brian L. Sullivan is eBird program codirector and photographic editor for Birds of North America Online at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is the author of numerous papers on bird identification and the coauthor of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors and Offshore Sea Life ID Guide: West Coast (both Princeton).

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