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A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides(R)) Paperback – June 15, 1998
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Roger Tory Peterson, one of America's pre-eminent artist-naturalists and arguably the inventor of the field guide, made people love birds like no one since John James Audubon. A Field Guide to the Birds, first published in 1934, remains his most famous and wonderful work. The manual stood instantly apart from the dichotomous keys zoologists used to identify species, since Peterson grouped paintings of related species together and used arrows to, as he explained, "pinpoint the key field marks." This way, watchers could spot birds from a distance and avoid, as he archly put it, "the bird-in-hand characters that the early collectors relied on." Birders could use the guide where they needed it most--outdoors--on living birds flitting quickly by. In addition to detailed illustrations, Peterson offers charming (and useful) descriptions of each avian citizen's appearance, behavior, voice, and range. There is also priceless anecdotal information, based on decades of field experience, as in this description of the common house sparrow (Passer domesticus): "Familiar to everyone. Sooty city birds often bear little resemblance to clean country males with the black throat, white cheeks, chestnut nape." His transliterations of song are just as quietly marvelous. For instance, Pluvialis squatarola, or the black-bellied plover, makes things clear with "a plaintive slurred whistle, tlee-oo-eee or whee-er-ee (middle note lower)."
Peterson's original handbook covered birds of Eastern North America, and has since been followed by guides to Western birds, animal tracks, butterflies, and many other natural wonders. He and his team updated "The Birders' Bible" as new species were discovered and classifications modified. Generations of enthusiastic watchers owe Peterson a debt of gratitude for making ornithology accessible. But equally important, he showed scientists that finding beauty in living animals, and not just cataloging the measurements of dead ones, was crucial. Roger Tory Peterson died in 1996. He will be remembered as a passionate naturalist, a keen observer of living things, and a gifted artist and teacher. --Therese Littleton
About the Author
Virginia Marie Peterson worked with her husband, Roger Tory Peterson, to research and create three-color range maps for several books in The Peterson Field Guide Series(R).
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It's definitely easily-readable enough for anyone who is a beginner, and is rich enough in detail and extensive enough in the number of species it covers that you probably won't need to upgrade for a good while.
When he passed, I kept many of his books and the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds was one of them. As I got older, I found myself picking it up to see if I could identify a bird that I had seen for the first time. I used it a lot for that purpose. To make a long story short, I lost the book (by loaning it to someone..big mistake!)& had seen the most beautiful snow white bird out front & didn't know what it was! Went to Amazon.com & ordered one & less than a week later it came. I love nature & now am a lot more aware of the beauty of birds. And upon looking them up, I continue to learn something new about them..GREAT BOOK!!