National Geographic Complete Birds of North America
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 15, 2005
National Geographic have done it again.When it comes to Field Guides for the birds of North America,none surpass their (Nat. Geo.) most popular "Field Guide to the Birds of North America.It was first published in 1983 with 295,000 copies.It took the birding world by storm and immediately became the favorite.I can't think of a Birder who hasn't got a copy,for the simple reason there is no better overall choice.Since first appearing,it's now in it's 4th Edition and a total of 1,565,000 copies.Also a 5th Edition is planned for 2006.Each new edition is an update with a small number of rare birds being added plus other updates.In spite of the new edition,the earlier editions are still very good and useful.These guides are manufactured with the highest quality so as to stand tremendous use and abuse in the field.See my review of this book dated February 7,2005.

So now we get something new from National Geographic which I expect to be just as popular.It is intended as 'companion' to the above field guide.It is a much larger book,being 7" by 12" and 2" thick,much too big and heavy to carry in the field.This book will be used at home to get more information about a bird that simply can't be included in any reasonably sized field guide.It covers all birds found in North America,including Greenland.There are 4,000 illustrations covering sexes,seasonal plumages,variations,range maps,migration maps and just about anything a Birder would want.It does an excellent job of showing how to differentiate between similar species.There are also 150 stunning color photographs of birds which include the location and month the photo was taken.The book is extremely well made;has excellent paper,printing and color rendition;and has 664 pages.Another outstanding aspect of this book is its cost,$35 US or $48 Can.;unbelievable compared to the cost of books today.

This book has just 'come out'and would make an appreciated gift for any Birder.Whether they are new to the hobby or have been Birding for a long time,or have a casual interest and want a good bird book around the home,cottage ,school or library;it's a terrific choice.

What you got here is a book without equal at a great price,you simply couldn't go wrong.

On top of all that Jon Dunn ,one of the top Birders,was the Chief Consultant for the Field Guide and is also involved with this book;so it is little wonder that this book is so good.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2007
This book has excellent content, but the first printing had the stiff binding that wouldn't allow the book to open fully, making it very difficult to read. The second printing has a more flexible spine where the pages are just stuck to it. After four months of very casual use, the pages began falling out. This is the poorest bound book that I have ever seen.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2005
This new book published by National Geographic, "Complete Birds of North America: Companion to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America," edited by Jonathan Alderfer, is a must-have book for bird watchers-yes, even backyard birders.

The National Geographic's "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" has long been a field guide of choice-it's all about the text, rather than the illustrations in this guide.

The "Geo" guide offers fine artwork, as do many other field guides, but the clincher to making a positive identification is found in the textual descriptions of the birds in the "Geo" more frequently than in any other guide. And it's the text in the new companion that makes this book so special, and worth every penny of the $35 price.

Each of the 82 bird families, 962 species, found on the continent north of Mexico, plus islands within 200 miles of the coast with the exception of Greenland, opens with a photograph of a bird representing the family and a general essay about the family. Topics covered include the family's general behavior and distribution, among other details.

For instance, under "taxonomy" for skuas, gulls, terns and skimmers, recent genetic work shows that "skuas and jaegers are found to be more closely related to the alcids than to the gulls." Such information adds a new dimension to birding, making us think anew about the birds we observe so casually.

The artwork of the individual species displays seasonal plumages and different poses of the birds as they might be seen in the field. Within the individual biographical sketches, for instance, the white-breasted nuthatch, the basic information on identification, voice and habitat also has added comments on similar species for comparison purposes, and comments on its dispersal and migration.

Throughout the book, sidebars offer insightful details on topics such as aid to identifying female bluebirds or ways to distinguish between two similar birds in confusing fall plumage, Tennessee and orange-crowned warblers.

At this time of year, large flocks of common redpolls are beginning to arrive in this area, and sometimes a hairy redpoll is hanging out with its cousin, the common. It's no easy task to distinguish a hoary from a common. There is nothing more fun and challenging-and frustrating-than distinguishing two similar species.

With the "Geo" companion in hand, the flock of redpolls at the feeder can be studied and compared, and the sidebar referred to for the finer differences between the two, pointing the way to making a positive identification.

The new hefty tome, at 664 pages, has updated range maps for each species. In some accounts, the Arctic tern for example, an additional, larger "specialty" map shows its long-range migration routes. Having such a visual display, a bird's eye view as it were, on the same page as its range in North America brings a new appreciation for this tiny, 12-inch circumpolar migrant.

National Geographic's Complete Guide, with its 4,000 illustrations of common birds to rare migrants and detailed information on each species, easily acts as a soft step between a field guide and scientific studies for the enquiring birder. For the backyard birder, having such a comprehensive reference tool built into a single guide is the essential fuel needed to lead a birder into looking deeper into the lives of these feathered creatures.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2006
The single most noticeable thing about this book is how poorly it was manufactured. The spine seems to be made from steel making it impossible to ever fully open the book and an exercise in frustration to read. This problem is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the text runs way down into the deep dark recesses of the crevasse created by the horrible binding. The actaully printing however is very good. The pictures are clear with good color and the paper is of high quality. This makes it even more of a shame that the binding is so bad.

The actual content of the book is quite good. Most of the illustrations were taken from the National Geographic Field Guide as were the maps. The maps have been increased in size which is a definite help. Every species accepted by the ABA is covered with its own write-up. Not surprisingly, some of the rarer species receive much less of a write-up then the regular ones.

In the end I believe that the poor production qualities fatally flaw the book and can only recommend to the bird book obsessed like myself.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2013
Wonderful book content. Horrible quality control. The binding split the entire length of the book after just a few uses. Now, the pages are falling out. Incredibly poor quality for such a respected organization.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2007
Birdwatchers,hello! I am an 8-year old birder. If you love birds and need some good information 'Nat Geo's Complete Birds of North America' has great info on behavior, identification and other important bird stuff! It is the first book I look at if my family or a friend describes a bird they saw today.

I reccomend this highly, and you can buy it at almost every bookstore or library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2014
I found this book to be very informative; I only would have liked to see more actual color photographs rather than the drawings. This is a good coffee table book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2013
My son has been getting more into bird watching since they have been studying birds are his montessori school! He wanted a book to research the birds that he was seeing and I found this book on Amazon. It is easy for him to search thru with lots of details. We have not really used the book enough to find any issues with the binding as some reviewers stated. So far so good ...
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on March 25, 2014
It weighs a little over 4 lbs. is 7 1/4 inches wide, 10 inches high and 1 and 7/8 inches thick. Wont fit in your pocket. Probably the most complete bird book for this area. I have a book called, "Smithsonian Birds of North America, Life histories of more than 930 species, Fred J. Alsop III. I thought that book was good but this book is far and away better. The Smithsonian book was missing the American Goldfinch and the Swan Goose, native of Eastern Asia, domestic Chinese Goose and African Goose. I spotted one at Silver Lake in Bristol, PA. I showed a picture I had taken of the goose at my bird club meeting and two members thought it was a crossbreed. I had not gotten my National Geographic book yet. When it came I found it.

Looking for a book I could carry in my cargo pants leg pocket I bought, "Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America. It's also to big to put in the leg pocket but you could pack it along. I'm not too thrilled with The Peterson book. It has a little over 40 pages in the back showing the ranges of the birds and yet their is a small map for each bird on the page where the bird is displayed which works just as well, however, it should do well to carry in my car or in a fanny pack. I have an Olympus SP820U camera with a 40x wide angle and telephoto lens, witch is great for taking pictures of birds maybe 30 yards away and using National Geographic book to identify. I then record everything in my' Rite in the Rain, all weather Birder's Journal. That works. I read some ratings that complain about how poorly the National Geographic book is bound. One said the pages come loose. I've just received my book so I can't comment on longevity but the binding seams normal to me. A hardcover book can be abused if you don't handle it properly like forcing it open. I don't think ill have a problem.
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This book is NOT a field guide. It is a keep-at-home guide, more like an encyclopedia of birds, to read when you want to learn more about a particular species. It has detailed discussion of ID, but also discusses ecology, taxonomy, and all sorts of other detail on each species.

If you are a serious birder, or if you want to learn in more depth about each species, I find this to be an outstanding book to use. It is not a book for a beginner or newcomer. A lot of the information in here is subtle and will only be of use or of interest to someone who is already quite familiar with a given species. I find myself turning to this book after I become familiar with a new bird species, to deepen my knowledge and understanding of it.

One of my favorite aspects to this book is that it has extensive discussion on how to distiguish the most similar species, like long/short billed dowitchers, or greater/lesser scaup, and the like. In some cases, there is extensive discussion of subspecies too.

I have only one criticism of this book, which is of the binding. This is the sort of book that is a long-term investment, and that will tend to receive heavy use, in the form of paging around. In my opinion, it would be worth an extra $5-10 for a more high-quality binding. I have the paperback edition of this book, and the binding is a bit iffy. I've encountered other paperbacks with a more robust binding. I think the Sibley guide, with its flex binding, is much better-bound than the paperback version of this book. From reading the reviews, I'm convinced that the hardback version of this book is not necessarily any more robust with respect to its binding.

I would urge the publishers to release this book in a much higher-quality binding.
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