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Review of Birds of Eastern North America

By (December 15, 2009) No Comment

Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide
By Paul Sterry, Brian E. Small
Princeton University Press, 2009

It’s only by working your way through Princeton University Press’ magnificent new Birds of North America page by page and bird by bird that you realize just what an impressive accomplishment it is.

You could guess the size of that accomplishment by the pedigree of the talent that produced it; Paul Sterry has written dozens of books on birds, including the texts of some mighty fine bird-guides from years past, and Brian Small is likewise experienced, the photo editor for Birding giving aspiring and experienced birders indications of how the appearance of a particular bird species changes, not only between genders but between seasons and from adolescence to adulthood.

Birds of Eastern North America takes this revolution one step further: Brian Small’s digital photography is incredibly clear, and every entry displays its subject in the iterations watchers are likely to encounter (with distribution provided by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology). Since a young red-shouldered hawk looks like an entirely different bird than an adult red-shouldered hawk, this is a mighty helpful thing (and the sexual dimorphism of some species is drastically greater than this).

Whether you explore this volume while tromping through marsh and meadow or blanket-swaddled in your favorite reading nook, you’ll see these old familiar feathered friends in such a wealth of greater visual detail that you’ll have the very pleasant sensation of seeing them all for the first time. This is a guide to keep.