217 of 221 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2000
Attention, all North American birders. The ultimate field guide has arrived--Ken Kaufman's new Focus Guide to the Birds of North America! Not since Roger Tory Peterson's landmark guides has one book combined all the essential elements a birder needs to quickly and accurately make field identifications.
Previous guides have used either artists' color plates or photographs; each has its pros and cons. But the Kaufman Guide's use of computer-enhanced and edited photographs gives us the best of both worlds and works marvelously, now that the technology makes it possible.
The ranges maps, in addition to providing the usual winter and breeding distribution, distinguish between areas where species are common and rare. They also include migration ranges, which are rarely pictured in other field guides.
Best of all, Mr. Kaufman has put all the essential facts and photos into a compact 384-page paperback that will easily fit in a coat or pants pocket. While no one book can possibly provide everything a birder might want, this one, for its size, gives one the most important info. For birds that are usually seen in flight, like pelagics, raptors and waterfowl, there are additional poses. And for those especially nasty challenges, such as juvenile gulls, fall warblers, and immature sparrows, there are also extra photos.
If you can only afford one bird book or don't care to carry a liibrary everytime you go out in the field, this is the book for you! I've been birding for nearly half a century, and this is now the one I'll take everytime!
119 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2000
Field Guides of Birds come in two different forms and each has its supporters. Some folks prefer those showing reality using one or more photographs. Others prefer those based on paintings that can be made to highlight key features. Kaufman's Field Guide attempts to blend the two approaches by using digitally enhanced photos as its basis of identification. And they are among the best photos I've seen for this purpose. But I have to admit that they don't quite do it for me; there is a degree of artificiality to the photos that is unsatisfying. The paintings of Peterson and Sibley are, to my eyes, more useful in helping me understand the key elements of shape, plumage, and other characteristics.
Anyone who is familiar with other Field Guides will also have difficulty with Kaufman's non-standard order of images (e.g., owls and hawks grouped together). It makes finding a given group of birds difficult until or unless you become very familiar with this book.
But there is much that is good as well. The multi-colored range maps, using a variety of scales, clearly impart more information than their counterparts in many other Guides. And the Family introductions are full of useful tidbits that help you understand common characteristics of a group of related birds.
It was certainly Kaufman's misfortune that Sibley's Field Guide was published so close on the heels of his for it makes comparisons inevitable. Viewed by itself, Kaufman's book would be applauded for its innovation and the wealth of information it contains. But when compared to Sibley, it is but a distant second-best. I would consider it a welcome addition to my bookshelf, but not my first choice as either a pocketable Field Guide or a home/car reference book (I'd choose National Geographic and Sibley, respectively, for those roles). Nice to have, but not a "must-have".
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2001
That amazing guru Kenn Kaufman has finally finished his all new birding field guide "Birds of North America" using touched up photographs and "pointers"(similar to Peterson) I think this guide will catch on and be loved by amature and beginner birders.
I think the maps are very good and the many colors used really help the maps.Kenn uses two colors for the each of the seasonal ranges. A darker color indicates the area where the species is common during that season, while a paler color indicates areas where the species while present is less common or rare.
The pictures for me at times can become a little crowded and some of the photos are a little pale, but most of them are much better than any other "photo guide". Some of my Photos and ink smeared in my book, so you may want to double check before purchasing your book. This field guide makes it very simple to look up a bird on the field. The Color Tabs are simple as well as the index in the back. I enjoyed the vocal I.D. for each bird but that is a very personal taste.
Each I.D. also adds a little something I miss in a lot of field guides, for example: "A hyperactive midget, common in winter in woods and thickets of south. Harder in summer, when often high in tall conifers. Flicks wings open and shut especially when excited." Golden-Crowned Kinglet
In closing I must say this is one of the easier field guide to birds to use and is a warm welcome to the birding community.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This is a magnificent guide, especially for beginners. Expert birders may prefer the encyclopedic guide by David Sibley, another excellent piece of work. This guide has a number of advantages as a guide:
It easily fits into your pocket It has a handy thumb index, once you get used to it It has a comprehensive index inside the back cover The photos are superb, and the color matches better than any other guide I know.
I highly recommend this guide.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2000
I have tried carrying a variety of field guides over the past 20 years, but I always returned to the Golden guide because of the maps and organization. That is, until the Kenn Kaufman book arrived. This guide is perfect when you're in the field and your in a hurry. The most helpful page is the very last one, which is a summarized index. I love this guide, and I'm buying it for all my non-birding friends who are always asking me to id birds at their feeders. Anyone at any level of birding will love this!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2002
Let me tell you my bias up-front - I generally prefer bird guides which contain illustrations rather than photographs; I have found that poor lighting, bad angles and subjects not representative of their species tend to make their way into photo guides, thereby defeating the purpose. That said, I am very impressed with the quality of images in the Kaufman guide, likely because they're not unretouched. Kaufman uses digital editing to touch up the photographs so that each one is more representative of each species, and so that the quality of lighting is excellent.
It is of a size small enough to be easily carried into the field, unlike my favorite book, the Sibley guide, and the different page background colors are convenient for flipping quickly to the right section. There are short sections in the front of the book on "how to bird," "where to bird," and "what to look for," along with a few other blurbs, but all of this covers only nine pages total. Further, the text accompanying each bird is very short, one small paragraph.
Still, it's readily apparent that a *lot* of work went into this guide, and I'm really impressed with it. While I personally believe that it's not something a novice birder would likely find really useful, like the National Geographic Society's book, intermediate and advanced birders will likely find it easy to use for quick reference about a field marking or species differentiation. Conveniently, he covers all of the birds of North America, thereby obviating the need to purchase one book for the East, one for the West, and so forth.
My best advice is to get your hands on a copy of this book before purchasing it if you're not certain you'll like it - birding guides can be a highly-personal thing, and you may find that this review is just totally buggered! I'm still glad I own this book, and occasionally take it out into the field instead of my preferred NGS, just for the sake of variety.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2001
Of all the bird guides in our local library, this one was the best. We recently found an injured bird in our yard and were curious to discover what it was. Most of the field books helped us narrow it down to just a couple of possibilities (we thought it might be a mockingbird) but only one book gave us the determining information... the eye color. Apparently immature mockingbirds, as this was, can have darker eyes than adults, and all the other guides we consulted neglected to tell us this, and thus confused us. This guide provided much information to distinguish adults and juveniles, males and females, and similar species. I believe it even mentioned what they eat, which I found left out of most guides. According to the other reviews, the book is unconventionally arranged, but for beginners and amateurs (like me) this hardly makes a difference. Definitely one I will consider purchasing as soon as I can afford it!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2000
This is one of the best field guides written, along the the Peterson Guide, and the new Sibley Guide. It is the only guide with actual pictures of birds that is worth even looking at. Kenn Kauffman is one of the greatest birders of all time. I would highly recommend this book for anybody that's even remotely interested in birds.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2007
My 7 year old has recently become fascinated with birds. We had a little backyard guide, but it just wasn't enough. I went to the bookstore to look at the different guides available & really loved the way this book is indexed. In the front, you see pictures of groups of birds, the name of the group & a color band--the book section has the matching color band.
It's really easy for my daughter to see a bird, glance over the first groups of pictures in the front index, pick the group that it looks like, then find the colored section in the book & find the exact bird! There isn't a ton of info no the birds, mostly just region info, food, call, etc--but pictures include males, females & juveniles--which is very nice--the maps are also very clear, so it's easy to see if it might be in your area.
We love this book & highly recommend it to beginners who don't know much about birds & their groups, etc!
For further information on the birds, we also bought the DK (Dorling Kindersley) Guide to Birds of North America--we bought the Eastern, but they also make a Western. It's 24.99 at the book store, but you can get it for less than 10 here on amazon--it goes into great detail about each bird, has tons of color pictures of the birds, their nests, eggs, babies, etc--very educational--we will use it to learn more about the birds once we spot them in our Kaufman guide.
We also ordered, on a whim & because it was only 83 cents on amazon, The Complete Birdhouse Book--The Easy Guide to Attracting Nesting Birds by Donald & Lillian Stokes. When it arrived I was overjoyed with how wonderful this book is--it is full color, talks in-depth about the bird life-cycle with full color pictures & specifically what different birds need in a home--and thus, how to construct it! What beginner ever knew the hole size, hole to floor measurement & inside dimensions & total height were so important--not to mention where it is placed & what type of things to leave in your yard for nesting material! Also, how to control predators & pests & other useful information. Full color pictures again & highly educational---a good companion for anyone wanting to attract birds to their yard!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2002
I bought this book a year ago so I could identify the birds coming to my backyard feeder, and I still keep it by my sofa. The illustrations are very good, the descriptions clear, and the maps showing the range of each of the birds very useful. I've been able to identify every bird passing through my yard, and even enjoy browsing the pitcures/write-ups of those birds I likely will never see.