Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds

1) Crossley, Richard. The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds. 2011. Princeton University Press. Flexibound: 529 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: This stunningly illustrated book from acclaimed birder and photographer Richard Crossley revolutionizes field guide design by providing the first real-life approach to identification. Whether you are a beginner, expert, or anywhere in between, The Crossley ID Guide will vastly improve your ability to identify birds.
     Unlike other guides, which provide isolated individual photographs or illustrations, this is the first book to feature large, lifelike scenes for each species. These scenes--640 in all--are composed from more than 10,000 of the author's images showing birds in a wide range of views--near and far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors, including flight, and in the habitat in which they live. These beautiful compositions show how a bird's appearance changes with distance, and give equal emphasis to characteristics experts use to identify birds: size, structure and shape, behavior, probability, and color. This is the first book to convey all of these features visually--in a single image--and to reinforce them with accurate, concise text. Each scene provides a wealth of detailed visual information that invites and rewards careful study, but the most important identification features can be grasped instantly by anyone.
     By making identification easier, more accurate, and more fun than ever before, The Crossley ID Guide will completely redefine how its users look at birds. Essential for all birders, it also promises to make new birders of many people who have despaired of using traditional guides.

*Revolutionary. This book changes field guide design to make you a better birder
*A picture says a thousand words. The most comprehensive guide: 640 stunning scenes created from        10,000 of the author's photographs
*Reality birding. Lifelike in-focus scenes show birds in their habitats, from near and far, and in all plumages and behaviors
*Teaching and reference. The first book to accurately portray all the key identification characteristics: size, shape, behavior, probability, and color
*Practice makes perfect. An interactive learning experience to sharpen and test field identification skills
*Bird like the experts. The first book to simplify birding and help you understand how to bird like the best
 *An interactive website-- expanded captions for the plates and species updates.

RECOMMENDATION: First of all this guide ISN'T a field guide, it's too big (bigger than The Sibley Guide to Birds (2000)) and unlike the Sibley 2000, it just covers the birds of eastern North America! The layout isn't in the traditional field guide style in which related/similar species are on the same page, so I wouldn't recommend it for beginning birders just starting to learn how to identify birds.
     Each photo plate is layered with birds up close and in the distance giving depth to the plates. They remind me of museum dioramas. The habitat settings in each plate are general good except for the marsh and sedge wrens ( the habitats for those species are reversed: the Marsh Wren should be in the cattails and the Sedge Wren should be in the grasses.) Also the Red-naped Sapsucker is shown with snowy mountains in the background. In most of its range the sapsucker is a summer bird and the snow should be long gone. The text is brief but useful like the Sibley guide. The color range maps look accurate.
     In the end, I would recommend this book for intermediate level birders who are learning to see birds as they actually appear in life and perhaps for advanced birders as a supplement to standard field guides. Three other books in the series are in the works: Western birds, British birds and a mystery guide.



  1. Everyone is drawn to the stunning color plates, but I'd add that the text is also beautiful -- it contains possibly the best written brief physical and behavioral descriptions of any guide I've seen. I don't much care for the typeface used or small print, but the writing itself is superb.

  2. Here's a link to a story about the new guide: