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97 of 98 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This is a gorgeous book, full of valuable information. It could be used and appreciated by the birding novice and the expert alike. It's also quite handy, as they've thought to include a fairly solid carrying case, complete with a handle. Edited by celebrated bird scientist Les Beletsky, the book aims to be a comprehensive guide to all the native birds of North America, and includes a gorgeous illustration and helpful notes on every single one. The notes for each bird include a very useful descriptive passage, including details such as the fact that the Mute Swan is distinguished from other swans by its black-knobbed orange bill. It also includes discussions of where they are found - and there's a color-coded distribution map as well. Each section, additionally, includes a paragraph on habitat, behavior and vocalizations.

The really novel feature of this book, though, is that it includes very clear and distinctive audio recordings of the vocalizations of each bird, drawn from the library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Every bird is numbered, and you just type in the number onto the keypad of the sound unit attached to this book and it plays some of the distinctive sounds that particular bird makes. One thing that surprised me was when I played the sound of the Bald Eagle I realized I've heard them often in a nearby nature park. I knew I'd seen them on occasions, but didn't realize they were the bird making that sound, and that I was hearing them more often than I saw them! (See the brief attached video for a glimpse at what this book looks like and how it sounds and how it works.)

The table of contents divides up the sections in two ways, by bird type and by region/habitat, which would make it easier to find a particular bird if you didn't know its exact name. The book includes a basic introduction to each habitat as well. There's also, of course, a comprehensive index. The introduction gives some basic facts about birds that would be very helpful for beginners.

My wife was the one who really wanted this - she's working on becoming a serious birder, focused on the astonishing variety of birds that appear here where we live along the West coast of central Florida. As soon as we got it, though, I found that my children, especially my youngest son, are fascinated by the book and open it with care and come back to it regularly. I'd be walking through the hallway by the kids' bedroom and hear bird sounds, and knew that my youngest son had "borrowed" it for a while to browse. The whole family has browsed through it, occasionally to look up birds that we see at the beach or in the neighborhood or at the local nature preserve. This would make an ideal gift for the bird lover in your family. I know my wife plans to bring it in to her elementary classroom and show it to her students. It would also be a very nice book to keep on a coffee table in the living room for those who just want to browse.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Special PLAY ALL Tracks Modes for the Bird Songs Bible book:

Greetings to all readers and listeners of the Bird Songs Bible book.

This is Steve Beck, and I was one of the team members who worked on making the book.

I worked on the custom audio engineering and some related technology items in the digital audio player.

There are some special PLAY ALL tracks modes in the Bird Songs Bible Book.

These track numbers will automatically play all (or some) of the 728 bird sounds.

Just punch in the three digit track code number and press the PLAY button.

999 = Plays ALL tracks 1 to 728
990 = plays tracks 1-99
991 = plays tracks 100-199
992 = plays tracks 200-299
993 = plays tracks 300-399
994 = plays tracks 400-499
995 = plays tracks 500-599
996 = plays tracks 600-699
997 = plays tracks 700-728

When you do this the display will briefly show the word ALL.

Then the track number which is playing will display during automatic PLAY ALL mode.

You can press the PLAY/PAUSE button at any time to stop the automatic playback.

If you press any other control button, a number button or the << or >> buttons, the PLAY ALL mode will also stop.

Adjusting the volume levels does NOT stop the PLAY ALL automatic songs playbacks.

At the end of playing all the tracks selected the book will automatically turn off power after about 15 seconds.

You can also enter a new track number at any time, press PLAY, and the automatic playback will stop, and the track number you just entered will play.

Then the book goes back into single track play mode.

The PLAY ALL mode is fun and useful to just go through the pages of birds as the songs are played automatically.

It is also a nice album of bird songs music to enjoy.

The PLAY ALL tracks 1 through 728 will play for well over one hour of playing time.

Thanks also for the comments on the product - hopefully some updated versions of the book may address these critical comments.

Enjoy!

Thanks, Cheers, Peace, Steve Beck
[...]
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 26, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What makes this different from other bird books is that it not only illustrates and describes each bird but also plays back its song or call using an integrated audio player. Each bird has a number; to hear its song you enter its number on a keypad and press the "play" button. The recordings last up to five seconds or so, depending on how long a bird's song is.

Each pages contains a color drawing and detailed description of from one to three birds. The book covers all the birds of North America and Hawaii. It seems to be a fairly basic book intended more for a general audience than for experienced bird enthusiasts.

I am not a bird enthusiast, I just wanted something that would identify my local birds and let me know which ones I was hearing. This book did that.

There are some drawbacks, though. The text is a bit small. The labels on the players' buttons are very difficult to see. The book is big and quite heavy; the audio player is mounted on its right-hand edge, making it even bigger. This is a coffee-table book, not a field guide (and the introduction warns against using the audio player in the field anyway, as that can apparently upset or confuse the birds).

However, this is a very interesting and useful book to have in the house and it should even interest the kids.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 7, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is, without a doubt, the nicest book I have ever owned. I'm sure many of you look at the price and wonder if it's worth it and I can tell you unequivocally: It is. Especially if you're a birdwatcher.

I consider myself a beginner. Mostly I like to sit outdoors, enjoy the fresh air and listen, maybe catch a glimpse of color fly by. I have a hard time discerning the difference in the bird songs which is why I got this. I was not disappointed. The book is large and every page is done with rich, bold colors. 747 birds are featured and each has a map of where they can be found with short blurbs on description, habitat, distribution, vocalizations and behavior. Best yet, the accompanying audio is crystal clear. In fact, it's so life like that there's a warning not to use this book haphazardly as it may disrupt the normal rhythms of the birds at your location. The audio is delivered through a device attached to the book. The device is simple to use and I like how it shuts off after 30 seconds of inactivity.

The book, as mentioned before, is large and bulky. Most likely you wouldn't have this on your lap while outside because your lap would soon get numb. It's also cumbersome to handle but that's not really a detractor to me. It's like complaining a dictionary has way too many words and should be smaller. This book is comprehensive and the size is a bonus since the birds are rendered with such detail and beauty.

I've used this book often and even solved a mystery with it. At night, my husband and I would hear a specific bird call right as we were drifting off to sleep. It was unusual and always brought me back from the edge of dreams but during the day, I wouldn't see anything out of the ordinary, just a crow or robin here and there. I figured it must be an owl, but I didn't confirm it until I got this book. As I pressed the button, I knew right away: This was it! Somewhere close to my home lived a Barred Owl! I was thrilled!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 11, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very large and very HEAVY book. I tried reading it on the floor and using a desk, then the book and I landed happily in a big recliner. After skimming around, I found it very helpful to read the few pages of introductory material that precedes the 728 birds. The section "Order of Presentation and a Major Bird Division" explains that the sections--which are like chapters that vary greatly in length--are actually biological "families" of their various species grouped together. Also that birds are basically divided into passerine, and nonpasserine. Apparently, some birds (passerines) are able to perch, ie, to grasp a branch, whereas others (nonpasserines) are not able to do so. This is an evolutionary division, and the book is also basically organized into evolutionary families.

Each new section (Family) is a different color. For example, the first family of birds--Ducks, Geese and Swans (also given is the scientific name: family Anatidae) and there are 47 birds in this blue section. Next is a brown section with turkey, pheasants and relatives, and so on. There are a few families that are comprised of only one bird species, since they have no near relatives, at least in North America. The family name is printed horizontally on every page.

Each page features two or, sometimes, one bird species. A colored painting of the bird is shown, as well as a small map indicating habitate region--whether home or migratory. If the two sexes of that bird look different, both will be represented. The text includes: Description, Distribution, Habitat, Behavior, and Vocalizations. Under "Description" the bird measurements from tip of beak to end of tail is given in inches. (would like to see centimeters)"Behavior" includes how the bird walks around or swims, catches food, and if it has any nasty habits like laying its eggs in other birds nests. The written description overall is rather brief but clear.

A major feature of this volume is the sound-player attached to the right side of the book. It is true that the numbers on this device are difficult to read; I don't read them at all, but the numbers are set up exactly like a phone pad, so I go from there. There is a back button and forward button, also volume controls. I think the quality of the recordings is excellent.

Scattered throughout the book are ten four-page sections that depict and describe birds in specific habitats, such as "Cascade Mountains Riverside", "Arctic Tundra", and "Midwest Agricultural Region". A large painting fills the first two pages, with the birds flying, perching or behaving as they do in nature, along with the name of the habitat and a list of the common names of the birds. Following that is a narrative about the birds and region, along with illustrations of each species. I particularly enjoyed these sections. The large illustrations are engaging and the narratives are well-written. These sections are independant from the material that precedes and follows them.

Overall, I think the writers, illustrators and editors did a good job of this very ambitious project. Someone called it "overkill", but I also read that it is thought that this group of 700+ birds represents only about 7 1/2 percent of all the birds in the world. That's a lot of birds! I give the book 4 stars for illustrations, 5 stars for writing, and 4.5 for overall organization. I recommend the book to bird lovers young or old, or anyone who wants to learn about them.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 13, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Bird Songs Bible: The Complete, Illustrated Reference for North American Birds

A bird book comparison. I am more of a photographer than a avid bird person, but I do like to know what my feather subject are properly called. To that end I have used The Golden Guide to field identification Birds of North America, and the National Audubon Society Field Guides (Rocky Mountain States edition). The basic reason for the two is as follows, the Audubon guide features photographs of actual birds. In most cases this is very nice, but quite often the bird is obstructed, in a bad pose, or not quite in top plumage colors. The Golden Guide presents the color drawing of the bird, with the pose and features laid out to suggest the way that you will see it in the field. Neither is definitive which is why I use both. Most bird experts will tell you that much more often you will hear the bird way before (if ever) that you will see it, and that if you can, that is a quicker way to identify it. Great, but if you are like me, memorizing bird songs is as easy as memorizing the morse code. I can only remember a couple at most. Recognizing this fact the Golden guide includes a pictorial representation of each birds song, with a frequency vs time plot. With time you can make some sense out of it. The Audubon guide includes a line describing the voice, for example of a Cedar wax wing; Voice Call; high thin "seee". The Golden Guide describes it as a "very high thin monotone, generally with a slight quaver that distinguishes it from the Brown Creeper". Ok, I think you get my point, unless you already know what the bird sounds like, it is hard to imagine it from the description. And if you are trying to distinguish say a Bohemian from a Cedar Waxwing, the pictures look too similar. Here is where the Bird Song Bible comes to the rescue. You push 546 for a Cedar, and 545 (or left arrow) for a Bohemian. They don't sound anything alike, mystery solved. I could never positively identify the owls around my house, once again the Bible quickly identified the Barred Owl. They even include their own vocal description "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all". A classic owl hoot.

For bird description here is a quick comparison using the Cedar Waxwing. Golden Guide 83 words, Audubon 77 words, Bible 230 words. All of the books include a range map or description for various seasons. The Bible splits up its text into: Description, Distribution, Habitat, Behavior and Vocalizations. It is by far the most comprehensive. The picture in the book are large color drawings, 4-8" on the average, and quite high quality.

The Bible may not be hard core birder book, but it is the most detailed popular book that I have seen. Yes it is very heavy, the call player interferes with flipping the pages, but it does what it set out to do very well. My major gripe is that not only is the text quite small, but the publisher decided to print it in a grey, not black, font. Talk about hard to see! A minor gripe is that the volume level even at maximum is quite low.

So this is a terrific bird book, I can only hope that there will be a pocket version with a MP3 player in the future.
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51 of 69 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 9, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book, Bird Songs Bible: The Complete, Illustrated Reference for North American Birds, measures 14.9 x 13.9 x 2.1 inches and weighs about 10 pounds. Ironically, a note on page 24 states:

"IMPORTANT NOTICE
The American Birding Association's Code of Birding Ethics instructs birders: 'Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your area.' Although birds are used to hearing others' songs and calls, please keep in mind when enjoying this book that frequent playback in heavily birded areas can disrupt natural rhythms. Limit your playback accordingly."

Remember the size and weight? This is NOT a book that any person will take into the field. And that, in many ways, is its problem.

The book is designed to illustrate 747 species of North American birds (including Hawaii), give a few cursory comments about the description, distribution, habitat, behavior, and vocalizations (less than 20 sentences in total for each species), and then provide an index number that, when entered in the attached playback device, will play a short or single rendition of a call or song. The numbers on the device are rather hard to see, and the whole book, of course, as well as the attached device, is not waterproof nor moisture-proof. As I said, it is not a field guide.

Okay, let's call it a grand tabletop book. There still is a paucity of information for such a large book, and the illustrations are not exactly the best artistic depictions. From a competition perspective, there are a number of other devices for storing and playing birdsongs (including a nice iPhone app) as well as nicer tabletop books. The playback device doesn't come off (isn't portable), which would be a nice touch.

I like many of the song selections, but some were a bit strange. For example, how could a recording of the California quail not include the cu-CA-cow assembly call?

All in all, the entire product is underwhelming. It's just bird song overkill. And the lack of utility for something that is supposed to be at least somewhat utilitarian is problematic.

Don't throw away your field guides.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I read all the Amazon reviews before purchasing this book so I knew it would be really big and that the audio player buttons would be hard to read. I did not buy the book through Amazon because Pretty Good Goods Catalog had it for $50 plus $11.95 shipping.
I have the Backyard Birdsong Guide--Western North America which is small and has more than one song or call for each bird (a REALLY useful book although it doesn't have all the birds of the region). I wanted the large book to learn about birds elsewhere in North America.

Reviewers weren't kidding when they said the audio buttons are hard to read. They are almost impossible to read. Because the number pattern is the same as a telephone you know where the numbers are but it would be easier to be able to read the numbers. Entering the numbers takes a bit of getting used to because the numbers move from right to left and you start not with a blank screen but with the previous number. Just press the three numbers and don't watch the screen while you are doing it. The increase/decrease buttons only change one number at a time although according to the directions, you should be able to fast forward or reverse. Maybe mine is broken.

I think the greatest deficiency of the book is having only one call or song for each bird. Most song birds only sing in the spring and it is fun to be able to identify the birds other times of the year when they make only calls. Hope I wrote that correctly--I am a beginning birder.

I agree with some other reviewers who said the type is too small. This book has a lot of information about the birds besides songs and so is useful for learning about distribution, habitat and behavior as well as vocalization. Plus the scope of the book is amazing. Keep the book in the house.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
During the last five years or so, recordings of birdsong have been appearing with texts. While the sound quality of the CDs were fine, they were limited in scope, badly indexed and not easy to use in a truly utilitarian fashion. The texts were usually trapped in the good old field guide format, which certainly has its place, in your pocket in the field. This set changes everything.

This set is expensive. The book is heavy weight paper stock and large format with glossy paper. And a sewn binding -- I like that. The set, (book and player) are in a gloss finished cardboard carrying case well rated for the weight. The illustrations are good and large. Therefore, I see this set as not being over priced. The cardboard is sturdy but requires the same level of care you would normally afford the book and the audio player. It is a carrying case, not an armored clamshell.

The primary audiences are birders and teachers/parent (but in no way is this a child's book). The domain is North America and Hawaii. All birds that breed in the US and Canada are represented. So are birds that occur regularly on these lands; so are local seabirds that rarely come near land. Finally there is the Hawaiian group, which is a nice feature.

The introductory sections, also nicely illustrated, are well organized presentations of the content and use of this set. The nomenclature and conventions are well documented.

The jewel of the set is the perfectly indexed but easy to use sound engine. Content comes from the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library. All here bow. Absurdly, the only clear weakness to my mind is that there is no alternative audio output to hear these recordings in high resolution, far beyond the capability of the small on-board speaker. A foolish omission but there you go. Maybe they were worried that better sound would be abused to attract real birds. The sound quality is in no way bad, just unnecessarily limited. As for the book, Chronicle Books of San Francisco has another standout. Fine design and layout. They have been increasing their share of my new purchases in recent years.

This set is an investment for a decade or two of learning and reference. Now I can tell the difference between the Mallard and the Northern Shoveler by either sight or sound. Can you?
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 17, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Bird Songs Bible, edited by Les Beletsky is a large format, coffee table type book that has illustrations of every breeding bird in North America and has sound samples that cover 750 different birds. On the whole, this is a beautifully illustrated, comprehensive, and well written bird reference and the sounds are well recorded, but the book does have some significant pitfalls.

[Note: I am no expert in birds. I selected this book from the Vine program because I am interested in birds and bird song.]

On the positive side, the illustrations are fantastic. They appear to be water colors that were drawn by seven different artists. Superficially, they are stylistically consistent and compelling pictures of the various birds. On closer examination, there are some differences in the level of detail between the various artists, but these are minor. The birds are depicted at angles that maximize their distinctive plumage. Where there are differences between males and females, both are depicted. The artists generally pick a profile view, but will give two views for certain birds where it is appropriate. For example, eagles and hawks are presented in the standard view, but are also depicted from the bottom with their wings spread, as you might see them from below as they are soaring above you.

The birds are grouped by type, rather than location. The descriptions are succinct and cover five separate categories: description, distribution, habitat, behavior, and vocalizations. The writing is succinct, but more than adequate for a simple description of each bird. The area of distribution is noted by a small map that highlights the birds' breeding grounds, marine range, wintering places etc. in different colors.

The audio player is more than serviceable. It is glued on a portion of the back cover of the book that extends beyond the pages. The device looks like an extended telephone receiver, but the sound quality is much better than I would have expected. 750 distinct bird songs are available. You simply dial in the assigned number and hit the play button. Note, that there is no jack to hook up to an external speaker or to feed the sounds into a computer.

The biggest problem with the book is its sheer size. This book is 14.25 inches by 13.5 inches in size and is 2.5 inches thick. It has a hard cover and is printed on heavy, glossy paper. This is one large and heavy book--not something that you could take into the field to identify birds. Moreover, if you are interested in using the book to identify birds in your backyard, realize that the birds are divided by type and not by region. Unless you are really proficient at basic identification, it might be difficult to find the bird in question, especially given the sheer number of birds therein.

As for being a coffee table book, the attractive glossy cover seen on the Amazon page is not a dust cover, it is actually the outside of the cardboard carrying case/box that the book is stored in. The book cover itself has only two birds depicted on it and has a dull finish. To add insult to injury, the audio player itself is an ugly, plastic, gun-metal gray and looks like an overly long telephone receiver. I suppose you could display the book inside its case, but this doesn't make it easily accessible.

The sounds are from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library and were selected because they are `representative sounds' of their respective birds. The authors limited these to one sound per bird. This means that we may miss out on alarm calls, mobbing calls, contact calls etc. that may also be distinctive.

In spite of the problems, this is a very unique and comprehensive reference for birds of North America. For those interested in learning more about birds, it may be an excellent reference. But for those who wish to identify birds in their backyard or in the field, you will need to supplement this with a more portable handbook that focuses on a particular region. Even so, with the beautiful depictions of the birds and the supplementary sounds, this is an interesting, unique, and valuable reference.
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