So I finally sent her a note back saying I would be willing to do this, but also asked how she came up with me as a reviewer and here's her response: "Basically the publisher and author asked if I could find people who might be interested in the book. I know asking people I do not know can be considered intrusive. I hate spam myself, so when I get a new title, I try to find active blogs where the author seems really into the topic they post about, and if I can find contact information, I send as short, yet descriptive an email as I can. I figure that if I was sent an email that offered me a book about something I like to read, it would annoy me a bit less. I really hope you didn’t mind getting the email, by the way."
Well, gosh, how nice is that? So I sent Anne my home address and a few days later this great book arrived in my mailbox and I've been using it here at home for several weeks in preparation for my review.
Now as the proud owner of at least 23 field guides (13 of them just for birds!), I definitely already have a good selection. So will the "Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America" become a useful field guide in my collection? You Bet! And here's why........
First of all, the picture of birds are photographs and I'm one of those people who just prefers photos over an artist's rendering. The Smithsonian Field Guide has excellent photographs of the birds with many of them showing both adult and juvenile plumage; also photos of hawks flying (as seen from below) and many other birds in flight.
There's a lot of good general information about birds in the "Introduction" section of this book including parts of the different birds, habitat, plumage (with seasonal & age differences), and even tips on identifying birds.
The birds are presented in a taxonomic order (as are many field guides) beginning with waterfowl and ending finally with finches.
Each bird listing gives you the length, weight and wingspan (even on songbirds--not just raptors). When there is a size difference between male and female, that's also noted. Each listing also includes information on molt & plumage differences plus variations in size of plumage related to its range. The general description of each bird also indicates the habitat where you would most likely find the bird, what kind of foods it prefers, nesting habitat, a seasonal range map and a description of the bird's call or vocalization.
The book also includes a DVD with downloadable bird songs for your MP3 player. I don't have an MP3 player, but the disk works just fine on my computer. These bird songs are nice because there are several different variations of bird sounds you might hear in addition to the typical calls (alarm calls, courtship calls, & woodpecker drumming sounds).
I like this book because it includes both eastern and western birds--that way if my brother calls from California needing help in a bird ID, I can grab this one field guide for reference and also find out if it's a bird I might be able to see here in the eastern region.
This field guide lists a price of $24.95 on the back cover. I think that's pretty reasonable for all the information contained inside plus the birdsong DVD.
For me, about the only disadvantage of this field guide is the size.Although it's not as large as my Sibley Guide to Birds, it's definitely larger and heavier than the Kaufman field guide I usually carry along on birding trips. However, I see this Smithsonian Field Guide as a good book to have out on my desk or dining room table for everyday use and I think it would be a really great book to take to work or any other gatherings where people might have questions for me about birds or bird calls they need help identifying.
One more note: Ted Floyd (the author of this field guide) and Lang Elliott (who recorded the bird songs on the DVD) are two of "North America's Top Birders" as I found it in the "Good Birders Don't Wear White" book I'm currently reading, so you know you're getting good information from the "experts!"
Thanks Anne for allowing me to review this book and I hope the information I've presented here will be helpful for other birders who are interested in adding another great field guide to their collection.......it's never too early to start dropping hints for Christmas!