Monday, December 12, 2011

Birds of North America and Greenland - 13 Dec 2011

Birds of North America and Greenland
Norman Arlott

Paper | 2011 | $15.95 | ISBN: 9780691151403
224 pp. | 5 x 7 1/2 | 102 color plates. 900 color maps.

Birds of North America and Greenland, another in Princeton University Press' Illustrated Checklist series, features the illustrations of Norman Arlott, one of Britain's premiere artists and bird experts. For our friends across the Atlantic the book is also published as Collins Field Guide: Birds of North America.

As the title indicates, this 'condensed' field guide covers most of the birds species likely to be encounted in North America and Greenland. Others who have reviewed the book have indicated that it fails to include species observed in recent years, and for that reason, could be considered incomplete. 

As one flips through the pages of this guide they will almost immediately realize that this is a book written by a Brit, for a Brit, or mainly any European traveling to the United States.  Nomenclature in the book is somewhat inconsistent in that the common names tend to be Old World names, with New World or AOU names in parentheses.  For example, Arlott uses Great Northern Diver to describe our Common Loon (Gavia immer), or Grey Phalarope to describe our Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicaria).  Unfortunately, he also tends to flip Old World and New World names in his descriptions: Short-billed Dowitcher (Dowitcher).  Personally, it doesn't bother me that these name switches might occur.  I like that BOTH New World and Old World names are available - it helps when travelling overseas.

Be aware, also, that the book does not include any of the latest AOU nomenclature, so nomenclature is considered dated.

With nearly 900 species covered, however, I think this is a terrific guide to have, especially if you're looking to have an illustrated checklist.  For someone doing a Big Year, or needing a compact field guide this is a book to consider.  Arlott beautifully illustrates his birds, and provides surprisingly amount of detail depicting both males and females of each species (where necessary).  Not all plumage types are covered, so one shouldn't expect full field guide coverage.  Range maps are available for most common species, but should be considered simply a rough indicator of where to find birds. 

Clearly this book is targeted more for the European audience than the North American audience.  So most birders in this neck of the world may consider Birds of North America and Greenland insufficient or lacking for their tastes.  Anyone travelling to North America for the first time, and are not looking for the reference quality field guide that Sibley, Kaufman, National Geographic, or Crossley provide, may want to consider this book.  At only $15 or less through Amazon, its a terrific bargan!

Many thanks to Princeton University Press for a complimentary copy to review.

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