Review: Birds of North America


Review: Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic, March 2013.
Authors: Laura Erickson and Jonathan Alderfer.

I have been birding in a number of countries other than Australia and have generally enjoyed my experiences. On all of my trips, watching and photographing the local birds was secondary to being a tourist. One continent I would love to visit someday is North America. I was with this background then that I looked at this Pocket Guide.

When I do undertake my first trip to America, this handy pocket sized guide will be an essential part of my packing. Literally compact enough to fit in a pocket, it will not take up much room or weight in a backpack when touring and birding. While a complete field guide to the birds of North America would have to cover over 1000 species, this handy little book covers only 160 of the “most common and iconic” species.

Pocket Guide cover

Aimed at inexperienced birders, children and those who don’t want to carry a larger, heavier volume in the field, this is an ideal beginner guide. I dare say it would easily stimulate a greater interest in birds in anyone who has this book, being thorough, colourful and very easy to use. To assist these people, a handy Visual Index of the main bird families is on the inside front cover with another Quick Find Index inside the back cover.

Introductory section

To help beginner and inexperienced birders, as well as those with just a passing interest in birds, a very readable introductory section covers the following topics:

  • Invitation to birding
  • Why learn Bird Identification?
  • Where to find birds
  • Optics
  • Using this filed guide (including a simple illustration of the parts of a bird)
  • Taking it to the next level

Species entries

Each species represented in this guide has a dedicated page to it with the following entries:

  • Common and scientific names
  • A small map showing distribution
  • a photograph of the bird in a typical pose
  • a small sketch showing the bird perching (and flying if there are identifying features on the wings)
  • a Key Facts sidebar
  • A short descriptive text (usually about 100 words)

Some family groups also have an additional double page spread illustrating a dozen or more other species not included in the guide. These include pages on raptors, ducks, and sparrows.

Rating: 5/5 – this guide successfully and beautifully achieves all it sets out to do.

All I have to do now is save up for a trip to America.

Good birding.

Disclosure: I would like to thank National Geographic for kindly providing a review copy of this book.

For more information about this book, click here.


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