Birders can memorize hundreds of details and still not be able to identify birds if they don't really understand what's in front of them. Today birders have access to almost too much information, and their attempts to identify birds can be drowned out by excess detail.
This all-new Kaufman Field Guide takes a different approach, clarifying the basics and providing a framework for learning about each group. Overall principles of identification are explained in clear language, and ten chapters on specific groups of birds show how these principles can be applied in practice. Anyone with a keen interest in identifying birds will find that this book makes the learning process more effective and enjoyable, and that truly understanding what we see and hear can make birding more fun.
Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding
by Keith Betton in the United Kingdom (24/01/2012)
Kenn Kaufman created Advanced Birding in 1990 as one of the Peterson Field Guide series. That book assessed the challenges of identifying 88 species found in North America, grouping them into 34 chapters (plus a short introduction on birding theory). This new volume is 50% bigger and only deals with 46 species. Instead, a large section of 135 pages discusses a wide range of bird identification topics, and while there are plenty of discussions on key features, the book is clearly aiming at a wider audience than previously. Subtitled "understanding what you see and hear" this really is a completely new work and feels less like a hard-core birder's book than previously. Some might say it has been dumbed down, but there is nothing dumb about this book. Perhaps the best way to describe the change in approach is that the last book was for advanced birders, and this one is for those wish to become advanced birders.
It is packed with good information, and through clever use of images it offers better opportunities to understand how a bird's plumage changes through its progression from chick to adult. In particular there are great examples shown of gulls, and for me photographs are better than paintings in many cases – although it's a matter of personal taste. Each photo is displayed as a cut-out, so you can focus on the key features rather than be distracted by the background. It also allows for many images to be used on each page.
Among the identification challenges covered are Greater and Lesser Scaup, five species of diver (including Pacific), Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks with Goshawk, Semi-palmated, Western and Least Sandpipers, Red-necked, Little, Temminck's and Long-toed Stints, Ring-billed Gull, various gull hybrids, Common, Arctic, Forster's and Roseate Terns, the three "jaegers" and eight species of hummingbirds. But for me the most useful chapter is that on eleven of the Empidonax flycatchers with plenty of images and close-up shots of bill shape. Warblers are given their own general chapter and there is a separate section on the autumn plumages of Blackpoll, Bay-breasted and Pine Warblers. I was pleased that space was also given to discuss warbler hybrids – which is a growing phenomenon in North America. A similar section on sparrows looks at each of the thirteen genera in turn, and focuses in on Chipping, Clay-coloured and Brewer's Sparrows, plus the "Timberline" form of the latter.
This new book should not replace the old one but should be used alongside it, and if you don't have the original I'd get it now while you still can. Personally I would have liked a detailed section Thayer's and Kumlien's Gulls, which were given the full treatment in the original book and only get brief coverage now. There are plenty of other groups that present identification challenges, so I hope Kenn Kaufman will consider adding those in later editions.
"[...] Anyone, from beginner to expert, wanting to improve upon their bird identification skills should study the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding. Being able to learn from Kaufman is a pleasure and an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up."
- Grant McCreary (26-05-2011), read the full review at The Birder's Library
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