National Geographic Society Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, 1983. 464 pages; 220 colour plates. Paperback, £7.95. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a rather special 'peep show': an informal preview of Lars Jonsson's paintings of stints in all known plumages. (These will appear in British Birds later this year, and, when they do, don't lend your copy to anyone. Birders who won't cough up a BB subscription don't deserve to see them!) After ogling the pictures, we studied slides of the same species: four hours of examining scapular shafts and tertial edges; but the more 'real birds' that we saw, the more we marvelled at the accuracy of Lars Jonsson's work. When, I wondered, would such detail appear in a field guide? Then I received this book. With some sense of devilment, I turned immediately to the 'peeps'. Well, not quite Lars Jonsson maybe (John C. Pitcher, in fact), but not half bad! Feathers in the proper places, subtle colour shades on the fringes, adults and juveniles, summer and winter . . . and most of them even look the right shape. I tested out other difficult American groups. Equally excellent. Warblers in four different plumages, five stages of Ring-billed Gull, six Black-crowned Night Herons (all on one branch!) and rows and rows of Empidonax flycatchers. The National Geographic Guide is a very thorough book. So, how does it compare with the undeniably excellent 'Peterson's', East and West? Well, for a start, they've managed to get everything into a single portable volume, and, particularly for 'British Birders', this is a  definite plus. Many US vagrants, especially from the West Coast, are essentially Palearctic. So, here we've got Common and Spotted Sandpipers directly compared on the same page; Long-toed and Least; and—tantalising pair—Red-necked and Little Stints, both accurately portrayed (I know they are, 'cos I've seen the Lars Jonsson versions!).  

Volume: 
Issue 4
Start Page: 
172
Authors: 
Greenwood, J. J. D
Display Image: 

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