New On The Shelf: The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern & Western Region

New on the Shelf: The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern & Western Region Donald & Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Paperback. $19.99 each.
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These brand new field guides from Donald and Lillian Stokes are sure to become a valuable resource for many bird enthusiasts. Based on the best-selling The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which was released in 2010, these updated volumes are split into two portable, regional guides, making them more concise and easier to handle in the field.

Jam-packed with thousands of brilliant photos, these books are among the most comprehensive North American field guides. Multiple images are included for each species, allowing for easy comparison between plumage differences: male, female, summer, winter, and various ages. The birds are featured from various angles, and subspecies and hybrids are included for many species.

Each guide sports an attractive, clutter-free layout that is fun to browse at home as well as easy to use in the field. "Identification Tips" boxes are featured throughout, going over difficult groups such as gulls and sparrows. All of the information is presented in an accessible, beginner-friendly format.

The text highlights key field marks, with a cutting-edge emphasis on what to look for in the overall shape of the bird. Detailed notes on habitat and voice are included. The range maps appear to be accurate, up-to-date, and depict migration routes for many species.

One of my favorite features of the Stokes guides is the emphasis on identifying birds in flight. Many of the photos depict flying birds, and each species profile highlights aspects of plumage and shape to look for in flying birds (e.g., the pointed tail feathers in bobolinks). Flight patterns and behavioral clues are also described, such as the strong, direct flight of Bullock's orioles, and the fact that purple martins tend to soar more than other swallows.

Not only do these guides feature beautiful photos and a user-friendly format, attractive features to brand-new birders, but they also contain enough detail and information to make them a valuable resource for seasoned veterans.

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