Customer Reviews: Butterflies of North America (Kaufman Focus Guides)
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VINE VOICEon June 23, 2003
The latest Kaufman Focus Guide, designed for beginners, features a pictorial table of contents, a primer on identification and habitat, butterfly lifecycle and where to find the critters, other butterfly activities, such as gardening and photography, and further sources of information, such as books, websites and organizations. It concludes with an index of larval food plants, an index of scientific names, an index of English names which doubles as a life list and a final one-page quick-find, color-coded index.
In between are 2,300 digitally edited photographs, which have the easy-comparison advantages of paintings, and concise descriptions, with range map and primary larval foodplant. Each page of illustrations also includes an "actual size" figure, which is amazingly useful in the field. Similar species are grouped together for convenient comparison.
This is another practical, well-designed and beautiful addition to the Focus Guide series.
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on May 3, 2006
According to the preface, Kaufman Guides are "the best and fastest way to get started... to send you outside quickly, putting names on what you find". That was certainly true of the "Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America". Does it work here too?

Firstly, this is the only true field guide to cover every one of the 650 species regularly occurring north of the US-Mexican border. Other comprehensive books exist, like Scott's wonderful "The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide" (on Amazon: ISBN 0804720134), but they are really too heavy and not designed for the field. In contrast, this book is about the same size and shape as the well-known Peterson Field Guides, but with a hardier, flexible cover.

Unlike most Peterson Field Guides, however, the facing-page format allows illustrations, text, and map for each butterfly to be viewed simultaneously at one opening of the book. That is a major advantage. As for the illustrations, Kaufman opts for digitally enhanced photographs over paintings. There are more than 2,200 depictions of butterflies in natural conditions, all of them processed digital images based on photographs of live animals. The plates show the uppersides and undersides of most butterflies, both sexes are illustrated where they differ markedly, and regionally distinct forms are shown too. Range maps show where each species is common or rare and at what time of year.

At the end of the day this is a very welcome addition to the field guide literature and perhaps THE book to take into the field for identifying these insects, especially for beginners. Having said that, I would not be without the superb Peterson Field Guides "A Field Guide to Western Butterflies" and "A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies" (on Amazon: ISBN 0395791529 & ISBN 0395904536 respectively) or the relevant volume of "Butterflies through Binoculars: The West" or "Butterflies through Binoculars: The East" (on Amazon: ISBN 0195106695 & ISBN 0195106687 respectively).

As for caterpillar identification, that is a whole new can of worms and would probably made this book twice as big, not to mention twice as long to write! My feeling is that it may be better to keep the two stages apart and interested readers should refer to the newish "Caterpillars in the Field and Garden : A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America" (on Amazon: ISBN 0195149874).

The Kaufman Guides are a wonderful series - let's hope they keep expanding to cover new subjects.
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on August 9, 2004
I agree with the other reviewers who rated this reference book. It's got thousands of accurate butterfly pictures and it's loaded with information. Unfortunately, I was looking for a book that had a picture of the caterpillar beside each butterfly. This book does not and I am still looking for a book that does. Don't buy it if you need larval stage pictures. This book does not have those pictures.
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on March 5, 2005
While I'm not a professional lepidopterist, I do have a keen interest in this fascinating group of insects. I've used many of the available field guides, but this one has become my hands-down favorite. It would be nice if it had some caterpillar identification information, but, to me, that's about its only drawback.

If I had to buy one butterfly field guide (for North America) this would be it.
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on October 6, 2003
This is a great reference book for identifying butterflies. I especially liked the detailed photos and illustrations that showed butterflies as they would generally appear in nature. Other books often show the butterfly with wings open, but not with wings folded up, for example. This book shows both, including the differences between male and female butterflies and other details, so it makes it easy to compare your photo with the book's. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who takes lots of butterfly photos and wants to identify what you've photographed.
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on April 21, 2006
There is one big problem with all Kaufman Focus Guides - they don't make a broad enough line of them! If I were able to have only 1 book on a given subject (birds, butterflies, mammals, etc.) I would always choose the Kaufman Focus Guide. I find their excellent pictures far superior to the illustrations that most books use, for one thing.

I shoot a lot of nature pictures and wanted to identify the butterfly and moth shots I was getting. I have several other guides - National Audubon Field Guide to Insects & Spiders - Golden Guide to Butterflies & Moths, Peterson First Guide to Butterflies & Moths. But the Kaufman book makes it easy to find and identify a species and to find the very subtle differences between very similar butterflies.

The pictorial table of contents makes it easy to understand various groupings of butterflies. I saw one review critical for the taxonomic system the book uses... the relevant thing for me, as an amateur, was to be able to quickly and easily make an identification and to have accurate information to distinguish between many different butterflies that look very much alike. This book definitely fills the bill. As another reviewer mentioned, it would certainly have been nice to have caterpillars included - but few things are perfect.

If you just want to identify butterflies - this is the book to get!
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on November 2, 2006
Published in 2003, Butterflies of North America is authored by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman. It is 384 pages. What makes this field guide distinctive in comparison with other photographic field guides is its utilization of photographs that have been digitally edited in order to facilitate the proper identification of its subjects. This field guide is set up in a practical manner, because while the text and range maps are situated on the left page, the butterflies are displayed on the right page. The text that is on the left page provides descriptive information on habitat, behavior, flight season, field marks, comparisons to similar butterflies, and larval foodplants; in addition, the common and scientific names of the butterflies are stated. Along with the photographs that are displayed on the right page, actual size silhouettes and field mark pointers are included. For select butterflies, photographs of larvae and pupae are shown, also. And if the sexes look different, both are photographically represented. This field guide includes a pictoral table of contents, a section on the identification of butterflies (with corresponding illustrations that point out the parts of a butterfly), a section on finding butterflies, a section dealing with the butterfly's life cycle, a classification and naming of butterflies section, a quick key to the range maps, and three indexes. These three indexes are an index of larval foodplants--the foodplants' common and scientific names are given--an index of scientific names of butterflies, and an index of common English names of butterflies. The index that consists of common English names of butterflies can also serve as a life list of the butterflies that you have identified, since there is a box next to each type of butterfly that can be checkmarked. There is a color key system that is included in order to make it simple to find the correct group of butterflies, too. This field guide does not stay on the bookshelf whenever I go butterflying. Butterflies of North America is a productive, excellent, and recommendable field guide.
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on May 10, 2004
This book is very helpful for finding the names of the butterflies you find. It's color marked pages help you find them fast. It has range maps an colors on the range maps so you know what season thay fly. It tells you what larval food thay eat.The butterflies are listed in groups. If you want to know more about butterflies you will like this book. I use this book almost every day.
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on June 21, 2004
So far, this the best field guide for amateurs and advanced naturalists alike. It contains many more species than seen in other books I have purchased on butterflies. It is is excellent that Kaufman and Brock gave their efforts to photograph so many specimens, even some of the rarest species. One the rare butterflies, the best descriptions to identify them are given. If you think you've found an uncommon butterfly, consult this book. You will know, believe me. Stating that this is geared toward amateurs only is a complete understatement. Butterflies Through Binoculars is great, but this equals the other one, in specifics, photo quality, and field identification! Thank you Ken Kaufman.
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on September 30, 2005
I checked out this book at the library so many times I thought I'd better get one of my own. Found it for the right price at It's an excellent butterfly book for the novice identifying butterflies of North America.
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