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278 of 281 people found the following review helpful
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
on November 29, 2006
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.

There is an extra section at the back of the guide on Accidentals and Extinctions - probably not something I will use, but an interesting addition.

The species illustrations are generally well done and include comparisons of male/female/juvenile and summer/winter plumages. Also some extra pages such as ducks, hawks, gulls, and sandpipers in flight. Description of each species includes many helpful clues for identification, such as tail-flicking habit, prefers spruce bog, song is insectlike buzz. The range maps are large enough to be useful. A beginning birder might find a smaller regional guide or a backyard birds guide easier to start with, but would soon wish they had this one. In conclusion, a good choice for anyone interested in birds and birding.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2006
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.

Pros:

*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

Cons:

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
on October 14, 2007
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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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
National Geographic have just published the 5th Edition of the Field Guide to the Birds of North America.It has been the most popular field guide and continues to be so with each new edition.It just gets better and better.I bought the 1st Edition and each one since.Though they have all seen years of heavy use,both at home and in the field ,they are still fully serviceable and completely in tack.I did a review on the 4th Edition on February 6,2005,and all the things I said at that time also apply to this new edition.

I started Birding about 20 years ago,and having for many years been a book lover,acquired many bird books along the way.At this point ,I have over 1000 bird and nature books in my library,and were I forced to give up every one except one,the latest edition of National Geographic would easily be my preference to keep.It has been my preference since the start and travelled with me everywhere.I even lost a couple along the way,but at the next opportunity they were replaced.At this point I have only to add 2 more species to get my North America Life List to 600.All this done with this favorite Field Guide at my side.

When I say that this is the Birder's favorite;it is because I know and have met many,many Birders through the years;and every one I know has a copy of it.Well, maybe not a few beginners or people who are only casual watchers at their feeders or cottage;but even they want this guide once they've seen it.

I don't want to give the impression that with each new edition,that the older one is useless.The biggest difference is that the new editions have some minor corrections,better and more up to date range maps,additional rare birds included,and other things like latest approved names and species splits or lumpings.Another thing is that the aids to quick finding of species in the book continually improve. However,to most Birders ,whatever edition they have will serve them for many years.

This new edition has now included all the species ever seen and accepted in North America. 80 species have been added to the 4th Edition, bringing the total now to 967 species;and includes those that are extinct and of extremely rare occurrance.To show how popular this guide is,one has only to look at the number that have been published;

1st Edition 325,000 copies

2nd " 685,000 "

3rd " 470'000 "

4th " 85'000 "

While there is a lot in the guide that has not changed,simply because there is no need to,you will find many changes throughout;in the descriptions,range maps and in the plates.

Some plates have been completely redone,some have been added to with new species and others remain unchanged.

As you go through the new edition and compare it to the 4th;you are going to notice some real differences in the color renditions of the same species.Although generalization is tricky;I feel that in many cases the 4th Edition colors are darker,the browns are deeper,and definition warmer and more realistic.The Nightjars are much more richer in browns and beiges in the 4th Ed. Compare Elegant Trogons in the two editions.The Epidonax Flycatchers in the 5th Ed. are much lighter green than the 4th.The Gray and Thick-billed Kingbirds are very different colors between the editions.However,the Blue-headed,Plumbeous and Cassin's Vireos are identical in both editions.The Wrentit has been redrawn and radically different th color.The Dowitchers have not been redrawn,but the colors of some plumages are extremely different.The plates of the Prairie, Peregrine andGyrfalcon are identical in both editions,unlike the plate for the Broad-winged,Gray and Red-shouldered Hawks. I could go on and on ;but a quick comparison of the two editions,it will be quickly evident to you.

The colors of plumages will vary from one field guide to another;but I can't think of a case where they've varied so much from one edition to the next.I really don't know if this was intended or not--time will tell.However,these comments on color should not discourage you from getting this book,and it must me remembered that colors vary in the field because of lighting and other factors.

If you are planning to buy this book for yourself or as a gift for someone else interested in birds;go ahead,you will be making an excellent choice.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
I recently renewed my interest in birding. Prior to this book, I used the Golden Field Guide from 1983, and the Audubon Eastern and Western Field Guides. Wow, have things changed from the 80's. I love the artistry in the National Geographic books and the organization. I also highly recommend NG Complete Birds of North America as a home companion. I recently also bought Kaufmans Field Guide for photographic versions of the birds; it's nice, but is no replacement for this book. I also compared Sibley's. I wasn't as impressed.

I highly recommend NG Field Guide to the Birds of NA. I am going to buy this book for my brother-in-law
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2006
OK, got mine in this afternoon. Have spent a very limited amount of time with it so far but from what I've seen, it is an improvement over what was already a pretty decent field guide. One of the things I really appreciate is the new cover, it's durable compared to the old. I always covered my NG's covers with self-adhesive plastic to waterproof and improve durability. This has a plastisized cover that appears to cure both of these problems. And the flaps are now the index keys, both front and back. The thumb-tabs(like a dictionary) make it fast to go to a section like hawks, sparrows, warblers, etc. The thumb tabs are keyed to the flap indexes.

There are many new plates, some that are obviously improved are raptors and sparrows. There new, larger range maps that appear vastly improved. There are new short sections on Greenland and Bermuda.

All in all at a quick look, it is vastly improved while maintaining the same physical size. The margins are smaller to make room for the text and larger range maps. It includes every species supposedly ever seen in North America including 14 pages of "accidentals".
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Each issue of the National Geographic Guide to North American Birds just keeps getting better. With this one, just every every possible bird is listed, and the descriptions have been expanded. I probably have fifteen or so field guides to North American Birds, and this one remains my favorite.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2007
Among field guides to birds of North America that can readily be carried into the field, this is the most complete and most thorough. It's the one that I've used for years, and newly updated and improved to boot.

But if you are a beginner or casual birder, you might do better to make your first field guide one that is aimed more at beginners. For that I'd recommend the Kaufman Focus Guide to Birds of North America. If you advance beyond the beginner or casual birder stage, and start to look at things like empidonax flycatchers and gulls, you will know that it's time to supplement that Focus Guide. Then, this would be the one to buy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2007
Excellent Field Guide for North American birds----I have owned numerous field guides and this one is by far the best. The bird pictures are excellent and easy to compare with the living specimens. Field notes and range maps are also excellent. A great birding guide that will not dissappoint. National Geographic continues to put out top quality publications.
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