Customer Reviews: The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Stokes Field Guides)
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Customer Reviews

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on October 12, 2010
As one who has nearly two entire bookcases full of bird books, I believe it's fair to say that I'm not easily impressed; however, the Stokeses have done what I did not think was possible: blow me away with a field guide to birds. What I love best about the new Stokes Field Guide is the photography, of which there is an exceptional amount (more than in any other field guide) that is, furthermore, of eye-poppingly outstanding quality. I'd call it a visual smorgasbord--particularly the section on warblers!
And, as usual, the Stokeses provide a wealth of information in a sensible, uncluttered layout. The guide is comprehensive and fully up-to-date with newly split species (e.g. Pacific Wren, formerly a subspecies of Winter Wren); subspecies (if any) for each species; and current range maps that reflect breeding/winter range extensions and retractions.
As if all that weren't enough, a CD with the sounds of 150 species is enclosed to get the reader started learning to identify birds by ear. Bravo, Don and Lillian!
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on October 14, 2010
Received this book and was mesmerized. Wonderful photos and descriptions. Being a bird nerd, I found that the book is too large and heavy (almost 3 pounds)for carrying in the field. I will keep it in my vehicle for an excellent reference source.
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on October 11, 2010
I don't know how the Stokes' do all that they do but this newest guide from them is the most comprehensive of all. The pictures are excellent showing plumage variation from different regions, seasonal differences, and the juveniles. A bonus CD comes with the book of the calls and songs of 150 common birds. This is a big field guide at almost 800 pages but it is an important addition to any birder's library.
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on July 23, 2011
I am a beginner but grew up with an uncle who was an avid, lifelong birder. He always had a Peterson field guide and I never had trouble identifying unknown birds with it. I think it's because it was grouped by the "looks" of birds, and also it was an Eastern guide which narrows down (dramatically) the choices.

I bought the Stokes guide after reading the reviews here and I have NOT found it easy AT ALL for identifying birds of which I am not familiar. It is grouped by "families" of birds (not by "looks") so I feel I need to know what family an unknown bird is in in order to find it (Catch-22).

I am writing this review because I just came back on Amazon to check out the latest offerings by Peterson and Sibley (the latter recommended by my birder uncle). He also recommended an "Eastern" edition to cut down on the info noise.

Now, I don't want this review to sound too negative (I gave it 4 stars) because I think this Stokes book will be a wonderful addition to the Peterson or Sibley that I anticipate purchasing. Once I identify the bird I can look it up in the Stokes and see the beautiful "real" photographs of the bird.

For me:

(1) Peterson or Sibley first (the latter I have never used; again, just my birder uncle's recommendation);

(2) then the Stokes.

I hope this helps someone.

Happy birding!
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on October 27, 2010
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a jewel. Most birders will want this reasonably priced book for the 3400 photos alone; more and better photos than any other general birding field guide. The photos are also larger and generally in habitat or in flight and appear to include all the subspecies. The text is as good as the photos. Stokes' offers substantially more text on identification of each species (and subspecies) than any other general guide. They also focus increased attention on identification by shape, since that is often what birders see best. Whatever level of birding experience one has, you can use this book as a key reference for the variety of plumages found in the field.

I have not had time to read and use all the book yet; primarily the raptor, shorebird and gull sections, which amaze me for their extensiveness and substance. For example, there are four pages devoted to Red-tailed Hawk, with 23 photos, 12 in flight and 11 perched, covering the subspecies. There are two pages with 9 photos of Swainson's Hawk, and a full page on Roadside Hawk. I haven't even mentioned the downloadable CD of 600 bird songs of 150 common birds, which could be worth the price of the book alone. (Have not used this yet.)

My criticisms so far are few. For raptors and shorebirds in particular, I would like to see a range for length where there are dramatic differences within a species (e.g. accipiters and Dunlin) that can cause confusion with other species. I'd also like to see wingspread ranges for birds often seen best in flight, such as hawks, cranes, etc.

This is not a Stokes' pocket guide. You can't have 3400+ quality photographs produced at an adequate size and substantial text in a book with the same dimensions as the original Peterson. (Although when this book is converted to digital format for PDAs....) I typically carry the large Sibley in a small backpack, along with one or more specialty guides on hawks, shorebirds, or warblers, as appropriate, and my camera. When I'm teaching beginners, I also carry a Peterson or National Geo to minimize information overload for them. I will now be taking a Stokes wherever I go birding and keeping a reference copy at home. I look forward to using it for years.
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on October 21, 2010
This new guide shows years of meticulous research and great care in selecting and enhancing photographs. It will meet the needs of birders regardless of their level of expertise. The organization of the text is consistent throughout. I appreciate that each entry begins with shape. The many great photos are not cluttered with arrows or text and in many cases show both adult and immature plumages. The flight pictures are a great help as so often that is where you see a bird. While it is true that the book is too heavy to carry in the field, I find that in the field it is best to jot down observations and then check the guide afterward, so keeping it available in the car is not a problem. The Stokes have done the birding world a great service in producing a wonderful guide.
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I collect bird books with particular emphasis on field guides and have been doing so since the late 1950s. I have also been birding since even before the "book thing," as my wife calls it. Truth be told, I get almost as much satisfaction over my bird book collecting as I do over the actually birding...not as much mind you, but pretty close! I share this with you because like a couple of other reviewers here, it takes quite a bit to truly impress me at this point in my life. I have to tell you that the "wow factor," for me, is off the charts with this current offering from the Stokes. Now don't get me wrong. I dearly love every one of my field guides, even the old musty ones dating back to the turn of the century which were void of any illustrations and consisted of only rambling post-Victorian text. But for sheer usability this new Stokes ranks right up at the top. But read on.....

Now before I go on, the old question of "if you had only one field guide, and only one, which one would you choose - which one is the best?" Oh my! This argument has been going on since as long as I can remember. I have birded with a lot of people from literally all over the world, and when asked that question, I have received dozens upon dozens of answers. Bird field guides are a lot like golf clubs. Everyone has their favorite and folks will go to the matt arguing which is best. When all is said and done though, it all depend upon the individual; what they are use to using, how he perceive birding, what their experience level is, what their dad or mom told them, and on and on and on.

From my own experiences and from my own point of view, I would be hard pressed to try to identify a single "best guide." I personally use several of them in the field and even more of them as references. As an example, I grew up using the Peterson guides. I still use them as my primary source. Hey, they are what I am use to. Since those early days though I have added Sibley's guides, and of course Audubon...these are the three guides I carry in the field. I have now added this Stokes to my tote bag; or at least to my stash in my car.

The Stokes Filed Guide to the Birds of North America has some of the best photographs of birds I have seen in any guide book. Each bird represented has several shots; perching or standing, flying and of course gender and in most cases, maturity. The photographs are clear and concise and the color is wonderful. Range maps, unlike the Peterson guide, are on the same page as the bird. For "difficult" birds, there are nice little side-bar notes which include identification tips.

I personally found the organization of the book, once I use it and got use to it, to be quite workable. The authors have given enough text to allow identification but by necessity have kept the text to a minimum. I personally like this. If I want the life history or life cycle of the book I have plenty of reference books in by library and I have a computer which allows me to do further research once I have identified a given bird. In a field guide I simply do not want a cluttered and detailed text...too much reading in the woods causes a person to miss a lot of birds!

Now much as been said and written about the size and weight of this work and rightfully so as a person needs to know what they are getting before they decide to make a purchase, i.e. is it right for me? In my personal case, yes it is right. I do a lot of my birding from fixed positions (I am old and can no longer trek 20 miles a day...bummer) and I also do a lot of "roadside" birding. Yes, I am more stationary now but if you ask me if I would have carried this guide with me when I was younger, my answer would have been yes. Weight did not mean that much to me then as it does now. As it stands, I have been blessed with the ability to take very good field notes. This is not, I can assure you, because I am particularly bright, no - it is because I have been doing it for so long that I was bound to get good at it through sheer repetition. I can use my Peterson and Sibley on difficult birds and record enough data to make a good identification later using my full resources.

This book contains a bonus CD of over 600 bird calls our sounds. This is nice and is very useful. In my case it is not as useful as it would be for most folks as I have a tin ear when it comes to music - hey, I have trouble distinguishing between the music of Jimmy Hendrix and a Celtic Flutist...but it is a good CD anyway!

This work was a great addition to my library and has been a great help with my birding. What a wonderful resource this book is. This one works for me.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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on December 21, 2013
This book, with full color photos in many different positions, really helps me to identify the birds in our back yard. Most recently, we had a hawk visiting which turned out to be a red-shouldered hawk. Another time I saw a very strange looking robin, which turned out to be a juvenile. I also gave this book to three of my relatives who love bird watching. It's really wonderful.
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on October 21, 2010
Have been waiting for this guide to come out and I have to agree with the other reviewers - it is heavy (it is NOT portable into the field!) & the photos are outstanding! The time & effort put forth to create this guide are obvious & appreciable. I actually think the shorebirds, raptors and gulls are well done - especially for a general field guide. A fair amount of the warblers have photos depicting fall plumage. The included CD has good variety of birds and I have always thought their bird call CD's to be amongst the best on the market. A definite bonus!

Realizing that it is difficult to get good/great photos of all birds at all stages of development, my one quibble is that for many species, there are no juvenile/immature photos at all. For example - for the woodpecker species in this volume, there are photos of juveniles for 6 of the 23 listed. However, in defense of this volume, most guides (photographic or painting) on the market suffer the same issue.

1-1-11: Have had this guide for a little while and must say I have really come to appreciate this guide! The gull section is really quite impressive! I absolutely recommend this guide - I have found myself referring to it more & more.
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VINE VOICEon May 18, 2011
I'm a birder that has always believed in the superiority of illustrations for a field guide. I have loads of picture field guides and have felt them important as references as sometimes photos do show an aspect that the illustrators may not, especially in size and shape.

I had to be won over on a photo guide and I am definitely into this one, maybe just a fling but so far so good. I don't think there will ever be the perfect guide but this like several others, comes close and I am surprised as this is all photos.

There are excellent photos, perched, in flight, juvenile, adult, male and female are almost all there for all species and another great aspect of the book is inclusion of subspecies. You will not find another guide with a more comprehensive photo gallery of the species of birds of North America. Also this book includes more of the vagrant species such as Western Reef Heron, Lesser Frigatebird etc. that many of the other guides do not have. This comes with a burdensome weight of the book, making it unlikely that you would want to lug it in the field.

The organization of the book is also excellent with everything about each species on one or two pages, all photos as mentioned above, the status and distribution and maps as well as a complete description with a new emphasis on shape. I liked this treatment on comparison identification of the female Common and Red-breasted Merganser, something that was intuitive to me but well described in the guide.

There are a few problems here I could be picky about, for example poor under-wing views of some of the Godwits (a key ID issue)and I still feel illustrations may be best for depicting plumage as photos can only show the well lit details. But this is a great book, that is until the next one comes along!
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