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The North American Bird Guide

Field / Identification Guide

By: David Allen Sibley (Author)

599 pages, plates with 6600 colour illustrations, 600+ colour distribution maps

Bloomsbury Publishing

Paperback | Feb 2014 | Edition: 2 | #210310 | ISBN-13: 9781472909275
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £24.99 $31/€28 approx

About this book

Please note that this is published in the USA under the name The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf's second print run of The Sibley Guide to Birds  addresses both colour saturation in the plates and font colour, an issue raised by many readers. As of December 2014, Bloomsbury indicated that no new print run has been planned yet for The North American Bird Guide. Those customers who prefer that version can place an order here.

When the Sibley Guide to Birds was published in 2000, it was an overnight sensation, selling 500 000 copies in its first nine months (more than 1.5 million copies have now been sold). It established David Sibley as the author and illustrator of the nation’s supreme and most comprehensive guide to birds. Used by millions of birders from novices to the most expert, the Sibley Guide became the standard by which natural history guides are measured. It was published in Britain as The North American Bird Guide by Pica Press/Christopher Helm and won Birdwatch magazine's Best Bird Book of the Year award.

The Sibley Guide is one of three major North American field guides, and is widely considered by many to be the best of them. This highly anticipated second edition builds on this foundation of excellence, offering massively expanded and updated information, new artwork, new and rare species, and a new elegant design. There are hundreds of new paintings and all previously used art has been re-digitised following much modification by David Sibley to reflect the latest information; in addition, there are new maps throughout, new text, larger images and a new higher page count of 624 pages. This important work brings the genius of David Sibley to the world once again in a thoroughly updated and expanded volume that every birder must own. It is set to cement its reputation as the North American equivalent of the Collins Bird Guide.

Read an interview with the author where he describes the change to the 2nd edition.


"[...] In this second edition Sibley has taken on board many of these criticisms while refining many of the key elements. Numerous minor flaws in the artwork are fixed, an additional 111 species have been added, the species order has been changed to reflect the latest taxonomic consensus and the range maps have been updated and improved. The more substantial changes include a major overhaul of the text with a much needed increase in quantity and a significant shift in emphasis towards highlighting the key field marks. The artwork too has an increased focus on how to identify tricky species groups with more illustrations showing direct comparisons which again highlight the key identification characters. Regrettably not all the changes have been for the better. The most conspicuous problem is the colour reproduction which is considerably darker than the first edition. The reds, oranges and greens seem most affected with, for instance, the orange breast of the Red-shouldered Hawk appearing a deep chestnut-brown. Those with less than perfect eyesight may also have problems with the small size of the font used for most of the text.

So should you buy this latest edition? Well, that depends upon your situation. If you’re looking for your first guide to all the birds of North America then I would say look no further. If like me you’re considering an upgrade then the decision is trickier. Personally I’m not inclined to replace my 1st edition just yet. Hopefully there will be a reprint which fixes the issues with the colours or better still, the more ‘pocket-friendly’ eastern and western versions of the guide will receive updates."

– David Hodkinson, BTO book reviews, September 2014

"It is almost 14 years since the ‘Sibley Guide’ first appeared. It soon became established as the most detailed and authoritative guide to North American birds [...] In this substantially revised second edition, the author and artist, David Sibley, has introduced numerous changes and improvements [...] At first glance these changes may not be particularly evident but, if you are familiar with the first edition, they become apparent as you delve deeper into this new guide [...] In the original, many plates appeared too bright and richly coloured; second time around these have been toned down and colour reproduction is generally more accurate. In a few cases this has gone a little too far [...] The excellent explanatory and introductory pages are generally clear and concise. They include a key to the maps, which have been updated throughout, are larger than in the original book and show deeper colours with improved contrast. Additional text has been added alongside the maps providing information on habitats, behaviour, subspecific variation and vocalisations. Another useful inclusion is the comparison of moult-cycle terminology, with the ‘Humphrey-Parkes’ terminology (favoured in North America) losing out here to the much clearer ‘calendar-year’ terminology preferred in Europe. One change for the worse has been the switch to a finer and paler font, which lacks contrast with the page. Moreover, the font size used for distribution and subspecies discussions uses an even smaller font. If you have young eyes, this may not be a concern, but I suspect it will frustrate many older readers. [...] These small yet niggling errors apart, this is a superb guide and one that anyone who plans to birdwatch in North America will find invaluable. For those new to Sibley, I would heartily recommend it, since no other guide provides so much detail, but perhaps hold off until you need to buy, in the hope that the next print run corrects the colour concerns. If you already own the first edition, is this second edition worth buying? For the extra illustrations, yes, as these provide a complete illustrated guide to all of North America’s birds. However, if your interest is primarily the identification of vagrants, you will probably need the recently published Rare Birds of North America (Howell, Russell & Lewington 2014) as well, since it depicts vagrants in much greater detail."

- Peter Kennerley, British Birds 107(7): 431–432

Reviews of the first edition:

"Undoubtedly the finest guide to North American birds"

"A masterful volume written and illustrated by one of the continent's most highly respected field ornithologists"

"Once in a great while, a natural history book changes the way people look at the world. In 1838, John James Audubon's Birds of America was one [...] In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson produced Field Guide to the Birds [...] Now comes The Sibley Guide to Birds"
The New York Times

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