Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Book review: Birds of North America by Kenn Kaufman

Birds of North America

Kenn Kaufman 
Houghton Mifflin | 2000
384 pp. | 11.5 x 19 cm | 2,000+ digitally enhanced photographs. Colour distribution maps
Paperback | £22.00 / $20.00 | ISBN: 978-0-395-96464-4

According to the author, Kaufman Guides are "the best and fastest way to get started... to send you outside quickly, putting names on what you find". If that is the objective, the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America has realised it admirably.

Aimed at the beginner rather than the expert, the facing-page format allows illustrations, text, and range map for each bird to be viewed simultaneously, at one opening of the book. That is a major advantage over, say, the Peterson Field Guide series. As for the illustrations, Kaufman opts for digitally enhanced photographs over paintings, the idea being to combine the strengths of a real, photographic representation with the flexibility of a painting. There are more than 2,000 depictions of birds in natural conditions, all of them processed digital images based on photographs. Range maps show where each species is common or rare and indicate migratory status.

A further advantage over most other North American bird guides is the inclusion of all the regularly occurring birds, so you do not need to purchase separate field guides for the East and West.

For anyone with a casual to enthusiastic interest in birds, this is the field guide to get. It will enable you to "search and locate" fairly easily. Even the experienced birder may find him / herself carrying this handy little guide and leaving the heavier tomes (Sibley) in the car.

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