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National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Fifth Edition Paperback – November 7, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jon L. Dunn, a leading expert on the identification and distribution of North American birds, has served as chief consultant on all four previous editions of this book. He is also a consultant for the American Birding Association magazine, Birding, and the former chair of the ABA Checklist Committee, as well as a member of the California Bird Records Committee and the AOU Committee on Taxonomy and Nomenclature. He lives in Bishop, California.

Jonathan Alderfer, chief consultant for National Geographic's Birding Program, is a widely published author and field guide illustrator. One of the nation's foremost birding artists, he is well known for his expertise as a field ornithologist and an authority on North American birds. He was a general consultant, art consultant, and contributing artist for the NG Field Guide to the Birds of North America 3rd and 4th editions, and the lead editor of NG's Complete Birds of North America. A former Associate Editor of Birding, the ABA magazine, he also served on the Maryland/D.C. Bird Records Committee. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; 5 edition (November 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792253140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792253143
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 281 people found the following review helpful By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on March 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
For birders, there's never been a better time to find a field guide. Sibley and Kauffman have both published very good guides in the last few years, serious competition for the venerable National Geographic guide. National Geographic has responded with this, the 5th Edition, which has almost all of the new names, new splits and new species. How to decide among the competitors for the guide to take into the field?

First, you can't go wrong with any of the three. They are all very good, although each brings different strengths and weaknesses.

Second, if you bird with a companion, carry different guides: one of you take National Geographic and one of you take Sibley or Kauffman.

Third, measure your skill level against the assumptions of the various guides. If you are a novice, then Kauffman might be your best choice. If you are a beginner who has a bit of experience, then National Geo may be your best choice. If you are an advanced beginner or better, then perhaps Sibley.

But as an overall choice, with decent art (although not as good or as consistent as Sibley), decent identification highlights (although not quite as good as Kauffman), quite good behavior cues, absolutely excellent treatment of vagrant birds (especially Asian vagrants), pretty accurate range maps and highly readable text, National Geographic emerges as the most versatile of the three.

If you can, get all three. If you can't get all three, this is probably, by the thinnest of margins, the best choice.

Caution: this edition uses the new taxonomic order adopted by the American Ornithologists Union, putting bird families in significantly different order. It takes a while to get used to where things are.
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111 of 112 people found the following review helpful By B. Taylor on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I purchased this 5th edition NG guide so I would have all the up-to-date species names and splits. This guide incorporates changes made in the most recent (2006) 47th Supplement to The A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds, Seventh Edition.

This version is slightly larger than my old 3rd edition guide. Same height and depth, but pages are about 3/8" wider which allows for slightly larger range maps. Some may find this new version is a bit too large to be considered a "field" guide. The upside though is much larger pictures of the birds than those tiny ones found in other popular field guides, such as the much smaller sized Sibley's Eastern or Western N.A. guides.

Compared to my 3rd edition NG guide the colors are not as rich and vivid, but generally the illustrations of each species are still quite good. Some of the pictures have been redone by different artists from those in the 3rd edition. I found a couple improvements, but unfortunately there are also a few which are simply dreadful in comparison. For example see the Horned Grebe page. Oh well, no field guide gets them ALL right.

The new inset tabs really work well. There are just enough to help you zero in on key sections of the guide - any more would have just got in the way. The front and back covers have a fold out flap which I've found is handy for bookmarking a page in the guide. The quickfind index on the back flap is fantastic! No more flipping through the index pages trying to find where they've put the Meadowlarks. On the inside of the front cover there are several "bird topography" drawings which show the terms used in identifying various feathers and markings on birds. This is much improved over the few drawings in the 3rd edition, that were also harder to find.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a big improvement over the Fourth Edition. It now has every (excluding some occasional escapes of course!) species of bird in North America. The taxonomy is updated too. The Blue Grouse is split into the Dusky and Sooty Grouse, the Canada Goose is split into Canada and Cackling Goose, the Green Pheasant seems to be lumped into the Ring-necked Pheasant once again and there are probably a few more updates. The range maps have also been updated too. Some of the more uncommon accidentals and extinct species have been moved to the back few pages of the book. There a list of bird families on the front flap as well as a detailed look at bird topography. On the back flap there is a Quick-Find index as well as a map of North America. The flaps double as place holders and the cover is weather resistant. There are now thumb tabs for the following birds: Hawks, Sandpipers, Gulls, Flycatchers, Warblers, Sparrows, and Finches.

They still aren't as easy to use as some other guides, but they are still decent improvement.


*Completely redesigned cover that is very handy

*Every species in North America

*Ivory-Billed Woodpecker update

*Lumping and spliting in some species making this field guide more up-to-date


Only the thumb tabs which only come in handy for those species (Hawks, Sandpipers, Gulls, Flycatchers, Warblers, Sparrows, and Finches). Still a decent improvement though.

Overall, this field guide is one of the best and is worth buying. Highly recommended.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A. Khosla on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been using Sibley's Field Guide for the last three years, and my Western Sibley's is very well worn. But now, the field guide I refer to is the National Geographic. The new fifth edition is great. Rather than just list field marks, it offers tips on distinguishing similar species. The art is all new, and IMHO, very close to actual (compared to previous editions which were...schematic...[that's putting it kindly]).

Additionally, the submerged tabs are very handy, and they've picked up on putting the map in the back, like Sibleys.

My only complaints are that it's not a harder cover, and that I'd like it more narrow and tall, rather than wide and short. Nits. It's a fabulous field guide.
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