Aug 14, 2013 | Featured Web Article

Getting the Most Out of Your Field Guide

Field guides are an indespensable part of birding!
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Putting names on birds can always be challenging, but it seems to be especially so during late summer and fall, when juvenile birds and non-breeding plumages shake things up a bit. As you consult your favorite field guide this season, keep these tips in mind:

Keep looking! A lot of people find a bird in the book that looks like the one in the bush and quit on the spot. They don't realize until much later that there's another bird, two pages later in the guide, that looks even more like the one they saw. Make sure you consider all the possibilities.

Don't cram the bird into the picture! Well, the bird you saw looks a lot like the one on page 235 of the field guide, except you didn't see the big white patch on the wings. Oh well, you may think, you probably just overlooked it. Sorry, that won't hold up in court. It's likely you're just looking at the wrong bird in the field guide.

Look at the map! You may not know which birds are supposed to be in your backyard and which ones are found only on the other side of the continent (or which ones only visit your area during a certain season of the year). That's why field guides have range maps. Isn't that brilliant? What's not clear is why so many people never look at them. Maybe it's the same unexplained phenomenon as why men never want to stop the car to ask directions.

What do you think? Tell us!

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