Field Guides to North America: what to take into the field
Recommended Field Guides to North America
Field guides covering North America, in this context, include Alaska, Canada, and the Lower 48 of the United States. It does not include Hawaii, Greenland, Bermuda, Mexico southwards to the Panama Canal (which are instead covered in our neo-tropical region).
USA and Canada – first choice:
The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition (by David Allen Sibley), covers 923 bird species, including all the regularly occurring species in North America as well as most vagrants with more than one record. Birds with only one record in the region are excluded. Since there is only one artist, there is great consistency in the (extremely high) quality of the paintings which are both beautiful and practical. Sibley thoroughly depicts each species with separate male, female, and juvenile plumages as well as paintings of each species in flight. Concise written descriptions accompany each painting, usefully positioned near key field marks to ease identification. Range maps include separate shades for resident, summer, winter, and migratory ranges. An expanded text includes information on habitat and voice descriptions as well as tips on finding birds in the field. This is currently the premier field guide to the birds of North America.
The team at Birding Ecotours is also glad to endorse the app (Sibley e-guide), which has all the bird calls (the “Lite” version of the app is not recommended though).
By the way, we do not like the separate Eastern and Western versions of North American field guides because they are not substantially more practical and compact for carrying into the field than the standard versions, and we’d rather leave more space on our shelves for a foreign guide or other bird book! (rather than two overlapping North American ones). It’s more convenient just to have the full Sibley guide that will cover your birdwatching whether you’re in California, Kansas or Maine.
USA and Canada – another absolutely brilliant choice: