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Dency Kahn comments on the Sibley Eastern and Western Guides and asks for
comments.

The big convenience of the new Sibley Eastern and Western guides is their
field guide size -- i.e. the size of a Peterson. I have not compared the
illustrations carefully to those in the earlier, large Sibley Guide to
Birds. At first glance, they seem much the same to me.

The range maps were redone by Paul Lehman (with the assistance of some of
us) between the time the original larger guide and the newer Eastern and
Western guides came out. I think they are a big improvement and am generally
quite happy with the way they turned out. I hope you agree.

I have only the Western Sibley (which I got at a very good price at Sam's
Club) and have not seen the Eastern Sibley yet. However, I note that the
range maps in the Western Sibley cover the entire country for each species.
Most, if not all, of the birds we see around here are in it, because most of
the birds we see around here show up, at one time or other, in the west.
Presumably they (and any western birds we are likely to see here) are in the
Eastern Sibley also. Thus, either guide should be useful around here; either
should have the range maps we need, and it should not be necessary to carry
both.


I like Sibley's illustrations a lot in the original, larger book. I still
like them in his Western guide.

Although we are in the area covered by Sibley's Eastern guide,  I carry both
the Western Sibley and the 4th Edition of the National Geographic in my car
when I go birding. (I know the local birds pretty well and need a guide more
for hard-to-distinguish species like sparrows, shorebirds, Empidonax
flycatchers, immature fall warblers and gulls; therefore a book that
includes western strays should be helpful). My biggest criticism of both
Sibley and National Geo. is that they do not have much room for text and do
not give enough information about habitat, song, migration patterns, etc.
But you can't do everything in a pocket-sized field guide.

The illustrations in the National Geographic Guide were done by a large
number of different artists. Some are better than others. Sibley's are
uniformly good.

I have been birding a long time and have seen bird books progress from the
(horrible) Reed booklets to the 1947 Peterson and contemporary multi-volume
Pough guides (with Don Eckelberry illustrations), to the several editions
"Golden Books" by Chan. Robbins et al., to the more recent Petersons (e.g.
the 1980 Eastern Guide) and the 3 volume Audubon "Master Gudies", through 4
editions of the National Geographic Guide and Kenn Kauffmann's Advanced
Birding Guide and digital photo guide to Sibley. (I even have the Stokes
guide, which I do not think is very useful). I think the Sibley guides are
not only the latest, but also the best and most useful of the field guides
produced so far.

I do have Grant's book on gulls, Harrison's Seabird book, Hayman, Marchant,
et al.'s Shorebird book, Garrett's  Warbler Guide and Rising's Sparrow book
at home. These books often devote space that pocket guides do not have to
providing more plumage illustrations and more textual description -- thus
more clues to the identity of the jaeger of which you just got a glimpse or
the "mystery gull" that someone wants identified.. I understand that the
entire collection of Bent's Life Histories is now available on line. It is
still useful for answering certain questions.  I often go on line to see
photos in an effort to identify "mystery gulls" and to try to distinguish
Red-necked from Little Stints, etc., etc..  Sibley may be the latest word,
but he certainly is not the last word in bird identification.


Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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