Example, generally the Kaufmann field guide is not my favorite, but it has the best illustration of an Alder Flycatcher for the purpose of distinguishing it from a Willow.
Every active birder I know owns more than one field guide (although my number has been reduced by 2 in the last 6 weeks, as I've managed to lose one in a mysterious way and another (a big Sibley) by once more driving out from under it. I never seem to learn that I can't see what's on the left front fender!
Birders own more than one field guide for the same geographical area because NO SINGLE FIELD GUIDE HAS EVERYTHING IN IT.
That's the nature of the critter--a field guide, by definition and heft, just can't have everything we want to know about every species.
So we supplement to augment. Some are soon recognized as mistakes because what looked good in the store turns out not to be so helpful in the field. These are often left on the shelf to be consulted after a trip (or maybe before), but aren't taken along. Or, they may have a place in the dusty collection of books in the backends of a lot of birders' vehicles.
Some are excellent field guides, but the owner just never gets comfortable with "the new-fangled thing." This gets laborious as name changes, lumps and splits begin to distance the owner of a cherished relic from current birding nomenclature and distribution/range information.
Some (Sibley for example) are excellent field guides--but not for every birder. The Sibley guide was hailed (and rightfully so) as an incredible break-through, welcomed addition to birders' toolkits. But, for most beginning and beginning/intermediate birders there is TOO much there that they don't yet need. That makes it less useful for them. And, it is not perfect. Despite the great skill and painstaking efforts, there are field mark omissions and poorly illustrated birds in it.
The "baby" Sibleys (east and west) have all the faults of the big book and the additional handicap of fewer illustrations for most species.
For excellent plates, a good level of information, and up-to-date material: The FIFTH edition of the National Geographic Field Guide to American Birds is the best for beginning and intermediate birders. The fourth edition had several problems that were corrected in the fifth. The fifth edition is what I use to teach intermediate birders.
People cling to Peterson because it is a known entity. But, like many things, the reputation was built on past efforts that have been surpassed. The new Peterson is not as good (that is: USEFUL) as the National Geo.
I haven't looked closely enough at the Eastern National Geo (2008) to evaluate it.
Let's get out and use the field guides we have--looks like 3 days without rain!
On Nov 17, 2009, at 6:10 PM, Bob Fisher wrote:
How about general field guides to North American Birds that include the birds of the LGV of Texas?-- e.g.:
Sibley Field Guide
National Geographic 5th edition. (The 4th is pretty good. I assume the 5th is better).
New National Geo Eastern by Dunn & Alfderfer (2008) (reviews?)
The new Peterson (actually a collaboration done after Peterson's death) "This new book combines the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds into one volume. It includes 40 new paintings, digital updates to Petersonís original paintings, reflecting the latest knowledge of bird identification, all new maps for the most up-to-date range information available, text rewritten to cover the U.S. and Canada in one guide, a larger trim size accommodates range maps on every spread." (Review?)