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The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds Paperback – June 15, 1988


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The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds + National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Sixth Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Compact and yet filled with information, this portable encyclopedia of North American bird behavior is a complement to field guides. Learn more about the species you see in the field, and--when in doubt--use this handy reference as another tool for identification.

Review

Susan Roney Drennan Editor, American Birds A dizzyingly competent, extraordinarily readable, impeccably comprehensive and marvelously educational feat! Certainly mandatory reading for everyone even remotely curious about the birds they watch.

Mercedes S. Foster Research Zoologist and Curator of Birds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The Birder's Handbook is a gold mine...that will greatly enhance the joys of watching birds.

David S. Wilcove Ecologist, The Wilderness Society Field guides will help you to recognize birds. This book will help you to understand them....This book should be required reading for all birders, naturalists, and conservationists.

Thomas E. Lovejoy Smithsonian Institution Anyone who owns a field guide to the identification of North American birds will want The Birder's Handbook as a companion volume.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 785 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671659898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671659899
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I highly reccommend this to anyone with any level of interest in birding.
Jerry Mcallister
I gave this book as a birthday gift and she has told me several times that she has used it.
joan schambers
This is the book every birder needs to supplement her or his field guides.
rbaca@vf.lmms.lmco.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By I. Westray on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book isn't as immediately appealing as some of its competition, and its organizational scheme, and heavy use of symbols, can put you off. Use it for a week, though. I agree with another review in being mildly frustrated with its excessive use of symbols, often when a tiny printed word would have done the same work. But it's indispensible, and I'd recommend it to everyone.
A number of unique choices set this one apart. At first I was somewhat irritated by the placing of broader essays on the right page next to the species descriptions on the left. Then, with long use, it became clear to me just how well that worked. It's the perfect browsing format - just right for when you go to learn more about the thing you just saw. Also, the essays are written above the individual species level, so you can start out reading about Cowbirds and end up understanding the issue of nest parasitism, and the human impact on birds that practice it, far more completely than you would if you'd read Kenn Kaufmann's individual species description. It works.
There are some formatting issues here that do puzzle me. I don't really see the virtue in ordering the birds to correspond with the order in the NGS guide. There are other guides, to begin with, and now that we're about to get a new NGS guide, even the page numbers are going to be wrong. In any case, I can't see how you'd easily flip from one book to the other unless you were reading them sequentially. Who does that?
But those are quibbles. This is a terrific book, quite useful as a complement to your field guide and very nice to just read through. It could use a face lift, but it's got a heart of gold.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By rbaca@vf.lmms.lmco.com on August 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is the book every birder needs to supplement her or his field guides. Intelligently organized and brilliantly indexed and cross-referenced it tells you concisely and in plain english what the field guides don't have room to tell you. It is also packed full of fascinating facts; for example, an oystercatcher opens bivalve shells in only one of two ways and it learns how to do this from its parents.

The left-hand pages each detail feeding, mating, nesting, habitat, conservation concerns, & much more, for a single species. As well as being described in text, basic information appears in icons at the top of the page, so you tell at a glance such things as preferred habitat, feeding patterns, breeding behavior, egg and nest appearance.
The right-hand pages contain essays which apply to more than one species (for example, bill shapes or learned feeding behaviors) or which are not species-related (for example, biographical sketches on the great ornithologists). I would buy this book just for these essays alone.

The species descriptions are in the usual AOU order and are cross-referenced to the major field guides.
This book is a joy to use and an absolute bargain.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Mcallister on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I'm not on the trading floor, I spend my free time watching birds. I would say that it wasn't until I picked up this essential birder's guide that I became an experienced and knowledgeable birder. This book increased my ability to identify birds, thus making bird watching infinitely more enjoyable. Since purchasing the Birder's Handbook, my weekend hobby has blossomed into an intense love for birds. I highly reccommend this to anyone with any level of interest in birding.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have found this book to be a valuable source of background information on North American birds. I take it off my shelf and use it with considerable frequency. I find, however, the extensive use of symbols to be an occasional source of frustration. Until one becomes well acquainted with the meaning of the various symbols (this coincides, roughly, with the time that the book's spine starts cracking), there will be considerable time spent flipping back to the front of the book to find the meaning of the symbols used.
Probably the most valuable aspect of the book is the extensive bibiography found in the back of the book. Not only do Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye give you the basic information, they point you to more detailed sources of information.
Since this book is now several years old, we can hope that a new edition--with an updated bibliography and less reliance on symbols--will soon be in the works.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Marshal Berthier on July 29, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Definately not for the casual reader...

This book is really two books. One is a book on details of specific birds, the other a collection of essays on a wide ranging set of subjects. Both are very interesting and usable, but the book is structured such that the bird details are always on the left page, the essay on the right. Sometimes the essays are a fit with the bird details, sometimes not. Sometimes the essay continues on for several pages...

Purchase of this books should really be combined with either the old three volume Audubon Master Guide, or older editions of Peterson (west and east), or a couple of other older field guides. You may have to hunt used books for a match. As indicated in the reviews below, the detail pages are loaded with cryptic little symbols that reference specific plates and pages in these other older guides.

There is quite a lot of detail here, it is not a thin book, so don't plan on carrying it in the field much past the interior of your car. The size raises another issue. Updating this thing is not going to be an easy task. I suspect this 1988 edition is going to be what you get for a looong time.
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