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Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America Vinyl Bound – April 14, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

World-renowned birder Kenn Kaufman addresses a long-running paradox of bird field guides with his Focus Guide. While beginning birdwatchers prefer photographic guides like those by Donald Stokes, the physical traits that make identification easier are more readily discerned in the idealized paintings of illustrative guides like those by Roger Tory Peterson and National Geographic. Kaufman's groundbreaking work combines the best of both approaches by digitally enhancing photographic images to show the characteristics that are sometimes not apparent in photographs.

Some other distinguishing features include:

  • The guide is organized by bird family groupings rather than strict taxonomic classification; this is a feature that will appeal especially to beginners.
  • Text descriptions and range maps for each species appear on the page facing the plate of respective bird images.
  • Important field marks are highlighted.
  • Color-coded tabs identify each grouping of birds (waders, warblers, sparrows, etc.) for quick thumb indexing.
Kaufman's efforts follow the auspicious tradition of Roger Tory Peterson, whose portable field guide system was the first of its kind to meet the needs of the average birdwatcher. "It's the guide I've always wanted," says Kaufman, "and I suspect most birders will feel the same way." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Every spring, tens of thousands of bird-watchers migrate across the country in search of vireos, towhees, and violet-crowned hummingbirds; these birders can be recognized by their binoculars, their respect for nature and their frequent stillness and near-silence. By next spring, many of them will be toting this guide. Author and illustrator Kaufman (Lives of North American Birds) has long been one of the birdwatching community's stars. His colorful, practical and very portable book aims to become the new standard in the field. The book is small enough for a big jacket pocket, and can be held in one hand; color-coded tags divide its 16 sections on 16 classes of birds ("Ducks, Geese, Swans," "Chicken-Like Birds," "Medium-Sized Land Birds," "Flycatchers," etc.). Each left-hand page describes three to six related birds, with range maps for each, color-coded for season and frequency; brief phrases give most species' song, voice or call-note. The corresponding right-hand page offers bright, high-resolution color pictures of the same birds, on a perch or in flight. Short inserts help explain, for example, how to distinguish among many similar sparrows. Kaufman's guide is revolutionary in that it's the first to use digitally altered photographs (more than 2,000 of them) rather than unretouched photos or paintings - in practice the computerized images look like extremely detailed paintings. Though he pays more attention to common birds, Kaufman is happy to cover rare visitors and migrants: here are a brace of robins, but also bluethroat (restricted to northwest Alaska, and "hard to see when not singing"), and 16 kinds of (introduced) parrots. The guide may not be the most comprehensive available, and its laconic descriptions deliberately avoid facts that won't assist identification. But Kaufman makes up for those limits with compactness, great design and ease of use - especially for beginners: an appendix leads new birders to further resources (some of them online). Major ad/promo; 22-city author tour. (Sept. 22)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Kaufman Field Guides
  • Vinyl Bound: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618574239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618574230
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward S. Stonick on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Attention, all North American birders. The ultimate field guide has arrived--Ken Kaufman's new Focus Guide to the Birds of North America! Not since Roger Tory Peterson's landmark guides has one book combined all the essential elements a birder needs to quickly and accurately make field identifications.
Previous guides have used either artists' color plates or photographs; each has its pros and cons. But the Kaufman Guide's use of computer-enhanced and edited photographs gives us the best of both worlds and works marvelously, now that the technology makes it possible.
The ranges maps, in addition to providing the usual winter and breeding distribution, distinguish between areas where species are common and rare. They also include migration ranges, which are rarely pictured in other field guides.
Best of all, Mr. Kaufman has put all the essential facts and photos into a compact 384-page paperback that will easily fit in a coat or pants pocket. While no one book can possibly provide everything a birder might want, this one, for its size, gives one the most important info. For birds that are usually seen in flight, like pelagics, raptors and waterfowl, there are additional poses. And for those especially nasty challenges, such as juvenile gulls, fall warblers, and immature sparrows, there are also extra photos.
If you can only afford one bird book or don't care to carry a liibrary everytime you go out in the field, this is the book for you! I've been birding for nearly half a century, and this is now the one I'll take everytime!
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Format: Paperback
Field Guides of Birds come in two different forms and each has its supporters. Some folks prefer those showing reality using one or more photographs. Others prefer those based on paintings that can be made to highlight key features. Kaufman's Field Guide attempts to blend the two approaches by using digitally enhanced photos as its basis of identification. And they are among the best photos I've seen for this purpose. But I have to admit that they don't quite do it for me; there is a degree of artificiality to the photos that is unsatisfying. The paintings of Peterson and Sibley are, to my eyes, more useful in helping me understand the key elements of shape, plumage, and other characteristics.
Anyone who is familiar with other Field Guides will also have difficulty with Kaufman's non-standard order of images (e.g., owls and hawks grouped together). It makes finding a given group of birds difficult until or unless you become very familiar with this book.
But there is much that is good as well. The multi-colored range maps, using a variety of scales, clearly impart more information than their counterparts in many other Guides. And the Family introductions are full of useful tidbits that help you understand common characteristics of a group of related birds.
It was certainly Kaufman's misfortune that Sibley's Field Guide was published so close on the heels of his for it makes comparisons inevitable. Viewed by itself, Kaufman's book would be applauded for its innovation and the wealth of information it contains. But when compared to Sibley, it is but a distant second-best. I would consider it a welcome addition to my bookshelf, but not my first choice as either a pocketable Field Guide or a home/car reference book (I'd choose National Geographic and Sibley, respectively, for those roles). Nice to have, but not a "must-have".
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Format: Paperback
That amazing guru Kenn Kaufman has finally finished his all new birding field guide "Birds of North America" using touched up photographs and "pointers"(similar to Peterson) I think this guide will catch on and be loved by amature and beginner birders.
I think the maps are very good and the many colors used really help the maps.Kenn uses two colors for the each of the seasonal ranges. A darker color indicates the area where the species is common during that season, while a paler color indicates areas where the species while present is less common or rare.
The pictures for me at times can become a little crowded and some of the photos are a little pale, but most of them are much better than any other "photo guide". Some of my Photos and ink smeared in my book, so you may want to double check before purchasing your book. This field guide makes it very simple to look up a bird on the field. The Color Tabs are simple as well as the index in the back. I enjoyed the vocal I.D. for each bird but that is a very personal taste.
Each I.D. also adds a little something I miss in a lot of field guides, for example: "A hyperactive midget, common in winter in woods and thickets of south. Harder in summer, when often high in tall conifers. Flicks wings open and shut especially when excited." Golden-Crowned Kinglet
In closing I must say this is one of the easier field guide to birds to use and is a warm welcome to the birding community.
Martin Phillips
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a magnificent guide, especially for beginners. Expert birders may prefer the encyclopedic guide by David Sibley, another excellent piece of work. This guide has a number of advantages as a guide:
It easily fits into your pocket It has a handy thumb index, once you get used to it It has a comprehensive index inside the back cover The photos are superb, and the color matches better than any other guide I know.
I highly recommend this guide.
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